The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly unanimously voted down an ordinance that would have allowed assembly members to participate in regular meetings telephonically after public opposition.

A total of five community members spoke during public hearing, and all were opposed to the change. 

Sue Jeffrey called the proposed ordinance “bad public policy” and said that, while the ordinance might make participation more convenient for assembly members, it would limit the public’s ability to engage with their elected representatives. 

“I think that when a person is elected and is going to be voting on matters about this community … you owe it, I believe, to be present in the public and allow people to look you in the eye and you look them in the eye when you’re voting. I think it’s very important that you are present.”

Bob Brodie questioned whether the ordinance would allow a person no longer living in the borough to continue to serve on the assembly by voting telephonically. 

Mel Stephens called it “absolutely crazy” to pass an ordinance and then use a separate resolution to set the rules and stipulations of the ordinance.

Assembly member Dennis Symmons kicked off assembly discussion of the ordinance, saying that the public comment had changed his mind on the matter. 

“It’s a lot broader of a decision than I anticipated. So with that, I will support what the people have 100 percent asked for and demanded and vote no,” he said.

Assembly member Matt Van Daele also had a change of heart due to public comments. 

“Initially I was only looking at this through the lens of enabling village participation … but listening to public opinion tonight has completely, completely opened my eyes and changed my opinion on this matter, so I will be voting no, as well,” he said. 

Assembly member Rebecca Skinner said she believes it is hard to engage and participate fully by teleconference, but that she saw value in the ordinance to allow more village residents to run for office.

Skinner pointed out that no village residents has called in support of the ordinance and said she would like them to reach out to assembly members if they feel it is an important issue for them. 

Until that point, she said, the ordinance would be “fixing a problem that doesn’t seem to exist” for village residents. 

Assembly members Scott Smiley and Julie Kavanaugh both questioned the ordinance on the basis of the difficulty in adhering to open meeting laws and public notice requirements. 

The assembly also voted to eliminate the Kodiak Economic Development Commission, the Personnel Advisory Board and the Kodiak Workforce Regional Development Advisory Council. 

The KEDC had no members and had not met for an extended period of time, according to Nova Javier, borough clerk.

The KWRAC was not functioning efficiently due to difficulty in meeting quorum requirements.

Assembly member Scott Smiley pointed out that the KIB School District and Kodiak College are working together to form a similar group that could fill the council’s role. 

The Personnel Advisory Board had only three of five seats filled and had trouble meeting quorum requirements at meetings, according to KIB Manager Michael Powers. The unionized employees operate under a collective bargaining agreement and an association has been established for non-unionized employees, he said. 

The assembly elected to keep the Emergency Services Council, the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Architectural/Engineering Review Board, the Solid Waste Advisory Board and the Borough Lands Committee. 


Other business

The assembly postponed a rezone request for the 11.8-acre property that was formerly the Jackson Mobile Home Park until the Dec. 2 regular meeting after it was determined that notices of the public hearing were not mailed to neighbors of the property. There will be another public hearing on the rezone ordinance at the Dec. 2 meeting, as well. 

The assembly approved an ordinance to allow the assembly to set and adopt its meeting calendar for the following year. 

Assembly members elected Skinner as deputy presiding officer. 

The assembly approved a contract with Jere’s Tree Service for use of wood from a borough-owned portion of the Chiniak burn area. 

The assembly approved a resolution identifying federal program priorities and a capital improvement program with amendments to eliminate a duplicative sentence, make a minor change in phraseology and to change the location of asks for each item. 

The assembly approved a resolution prioritizing state funding requests for borough capital improvement projects with amendments.

The assembly authorized a grant application request that includes a promise of a 10 percent match of $10,000 if the grant is approved, appointed Reed Oswalt to the Bay View Road Service Area Board, declared vacant a seat on the Mission Lake Tidegate Service Area Board previously held by Robert Hoedel, and approved a letter of support for a Swell, LLC low-income housing tax credit application. 

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