Story last updated at 4:46 p.m. Thursday, October 17, 2002

Procedure keeps Anchor Point transfer site in dark

Borough assembly delays ordinance for lighting

by Hal Spence
Morris News Service-Alaska

SOLDOTNA -- Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Betty Glick served notice last week that she will be a stickler for procedure and averse to taking unbeaten paths when it comes to shepherding borough legislation from introduction to law.

Glick and two other members blocked a motion to accelerate action on an ordinance to spend $55,583 to install electrical equipment at the Anchor Point Solid Waste Transfer Site that would have enabled newly installed lights to work. Glick said the motion appeared to violate the assembly procedures and would mean spending money with inadequate public notice.

Outgoing Assembly President Tim Navarre requested special consideration for Ordinance 2002-19-20, urging the assembly to deem it an "emergency ordinance," a designation allowing the assembly to take the measure to a final vote on the same night it is introduced, rather than waiting until the next meeting or beyond to hold a formal public hearing.

According to Navarre, the unusual procedure is permitted under borough assembly procedures code. But to designate an ordinance an emergency measure requires a super majority, seven of nine votes. Then it takes another super majority to pass.

Recent improvements to the Anchor Point transfer site include installation of lights that would make using the facility safer in the dark winter months. However, funding was insufficient to install electrical equipment necessary to make the lights work.

The reason for the request for speedy action Tuesday was notification from Homer Electric Association that the utility would not install that equipment once the frost begins to freeze the ground. Frosty nights already have occurred. Navarre, and other members of the assembly, said there is no reason to wait until the assembly's Oct. 22 meeting for a public hearing before rendering a decision -- a decision that is likely to be unanimous anyway. Waiting, he said, could mean delaying lighting until spring.

However, Glick, who represents Kenai, as well as assembly members Paul Fischer of Central District and Pete Sprague of Soldotna, balked at the procedure, saying there was no immediate emergency and noting that residents have been using the transfer site without lights for years. Further, the Anchor Point transfer site is not the only one without lights. Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, Kasilof, Ninilchik, McNeil Canyon and Hope also do not have lights.

Glick first questioned whether the matter could even be debated Tuesday.

"With all due respect, I'm not sure this particular motion is in order," Glick said.

First, she noted that the ordinance earlier had been removed from the consent agenda where many measures are first introduced, usually without debate, and where they typically are set for future public hearings. According to her reading of the borough code, debate on such removed ordinances must be limited to the day of the public hearing. That date tentatively was Oct. 22.

Navarre pointed out the code also includes a provision for a super majority to move it to emergency status, which would take precedence. He noted that removal from the consent agenda had left the hearing date issue undecided in any case.

Borough Attorney Colette Thompson said debate should center on making the measure an emergency ordinance and setting the hearing date for that night.

Navarre passed the gavel and spoke to the motion. He said he thought Anchor Point residents would be more interested in quick results, in this case, than in adhering to procedures as Glick interpreted them. While it is appropriate that the assembly looks closely at all expenditures and typically takes weeks to OK any spending, he said, this ordinance was destined for unanimous approval come Oct. 22. Moving immediately would lessen the risk that frost would delay installation, he said.

"But today you don't want to because of procedure, and because of procedure it's possible borough residents will not be able to have lights and power at their facility for the whole winter, till next year," he said.

He continued, saying lighting is a matter of health and safety, and the ordinance is deserving of the kind of "forward thinking" residents expect of their government.

"Let's not get tied up in procedure on this type of an issue, when in fact, we are going to pass it unanimously come the 22nd. Are we just going to say, 'take our chance, and that's OK?'"

He couldn't convince everyone.

"I would have to submit that the waste transfer site has been here for years," said Sprague. "We have just done some improvements on it. If this is such a grave emergency, why didn't we put lights in when we built it? It's not the only facility that does not have lights."

He said he didn't think the ground freezing was going to be a factor in installing electricity to the site.

"I have a problem with us being accused of jeopardizing health and safety because I don't believe that we are," he added.

Fischer agreed.

"I can't, in my own mind, justify that this is necessary for health and safety reasons," he said.

Glick, Fischer and Sprague then voted no on whether to make the measure an emergency ordinance. The assembly then voted unanimously to grant the measure a shortened hearing date Oct. 22.

Later in the meeting, Glick reiterated what she told voters before the election, that she will focus on ensuring that the assembly sticks to the straight and narrow when it comes to procedure, especially where it concerns spending. She has said she will consider, but always with a skeptical eye, measures introduced as lay-downs (items put on the table the night of a meeting) or things for which accelerated procedures are requested.

She said she will stick to her "personal work ethics" and deal with the facts as she sees them. She also cautioned members not to categorize her style too narrowly.

"I'm my own person," she said. "Don't put me in a box."

Hal Spence is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.