The Kodiak City Council has rejoined the Kodiak Consolidation Committee after council members withdrew their participation last month.
The committee was formed by the Kodiak Island Borough mayor after community members voted for a ballot measure in 2016 to explore consolidation, which would join the borough and city of Kodiak governments into one government.
The 11-member committee was organized to include two representatives each — one voting member and one alternate — for the city and borough, as well as representatives from the community and villages.
At a work session last Thursday, the council appointed Councilor John Whiddon to be a voting member of the committee. They decided to rotate their alternate representative between City Mayor Pat Branson and Councilors Terry Haines and Randall Bishop.
“It is important for the city to be represented at these committee meetings,” Branson said. “We need to be there ... in order to present the facts to represent the city with what we know or to get the information that is needed. We need to be a part and be reengaged in this committee.”
The city had withdrawn their participation after the committee increased the frequency of their meetings from every other week to weekly. Councilor Terry Haines had been appointed to the committee as a city representative, and has been an outspoken critic of the process.
On Sept. 10, Branson sent a letter to the borough mayor and assembly stating that the increase in frequency of the meetings was “not an efficient use of time and resources.”
Borough Mayor Bill Roberts said he was disappointed that they withdrew, and called the move a mistake.
At a consolidation meeting on Oct. 5, Branson said the city had not been not been “treated as a partner” during the process of discussing the 2016 ballot measure and appointing consolidation committee members.
She said the city asked the borough to partner with them multiple times, but was told it was solely a borough issue.
In response, Roberts said the vote was made in a borough election, not a city election. He maintained that the committee was set up fairly and included two borough seats and two city seats.
“It wasn't stacked against the city, it was stacked so they have their input,” Roberts said.
He reiterated that the borough assembly tasked the commission with making recommendations to the assembly and preparing a draft petition for the Local Boundary Commission. The final outcome will depend on a vote by the community.
The city mayor and council have also been critical of the level of neutrality demonstrated by committee members, but said they have never been against efforts to research consolidation.
At last week’s city council work session, Whiddon said he listened to two consolidation committee meetings and remains convinced that members have already formed their opinions about whether or not they want to consolidate, rather than balancing the “pros and cons and harms and benefits.”
“It would be a disservice to the community to modify the facts or take the facts or take the numbers or budgets to build the government to meet one particular agenda,” Whiddon said.
Committee member Justin Thran said members have an open mind when exploring consolidation.
Sometimes the committee may spend hours discussing the pros and cons of just one topic, such as law enforcement, he said. If the committee comes across an issue that will not work for the island, then it may advise the borough to not move forward with consolidation.
“To listen to a couple meetings and think that we are just going at it ‘pro,’ that's not fair,” Thran said. “I'm happy that the city is back on track to getting caught up with us and their willingness to figure out the pros and cons with this.”