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Juneau moves forward with annexation petition

Posted: November 1, 2011 - 12:02am

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday decided to move forward with its annexation petition.

The Assembly voted 7-1 in favor of moving forward with a proposal to annex lands south of the existing borough, including Tracy Arm and Hobart Bay. Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl voted against the motion. Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker, vice-chairman of the board of directors of Goldbelt Inc. recused himself from discussion and action due to conflict of a interest. Goldbelt is a significant land owner in the area — with about 30,000 acres involved. Juneau’s proposal comes in the wake of Petersburg’s petition to form a borough and dissolve its city.

Goldbelt looks to stay out of any borough, for now

Goldbelt Vice President of Operations Derek Duncan spoke before the Assembly’s decision on Monday.

He said while Goldbelt is opposed to being incorporated into either borough in the short term, and would like to remain unincorporated at this time, it realizes it will have to decide on a borough for the long term.

Duncan said that Goldbelt is charged with providing the “highest and best use” of its lands on behalf of its 33,000 shareholders. He said identifying those uses is challenging in that area and will “evolve in the long run.”

Duncan said the corporation realizes the state mandate for all unincorporated lands within the state to be in a borough, so Goldbelt will continue weighing its options politically.

Kiehl asked City Manager Rod Swope and City Attorney John Hartle what the potential liabilities will be if the requested lands are incorporated — such as costs for policing or to Juneau School District.

Swope said currently there will be no additional costs. Kiehl asked about the long-term — for example if Goldbelt should develop its lands and start seeing a population increase.

“It would be hard to quantify something that’s speculation at best,” Swope said.

While there currently is only one resident of that area, if families with children were to populate the area Swope said they would likely have to get their education via correspondence.

Kiehl said he has also been asked several times on the street what the rush is on the annexation proposal.

“I suppose it was the manager’s and mayor’s political judgement that if Juneau didn’t do something then the Local Boundary Commission would thereby default place those proposed lands into the proposed Petersburg borough,” Hartle said.

Kiehl asked what Juneau’s “great interest” is in the lands.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said the last time the borough had any land expansion issues was back in 1989. The state developed its “model borough boundaries” in 1991. Botelho said he believes those were updated in 1997 and again in 2003. Botelho said the city conducted its own study in 2006 to determine expansion possibilities. Botelho said the result of that study were areas west and south of the borough that should eventually be incorporated, however it didn’t find that 2006 was the right time to do so. It did state the borough should be prepared to take action on annexation should another entity attempt to annex.

“Mr. Duncan made reference to the state constitution, that all areas would eventually be incorporated into boroughs,” Botelho said. “These lands would be most appropriate to Juneau given historic ties and outgoing connections today.”

Assemblywoman Ruth Danner asked if Juneau drew the annexation request line outside of Goldbelt’s lands, if the Commission would leave those lands unincorporated. Botelho said it was unlikely because there is a competing annexation claim.

Assemblyman Carlton Smith asked if there was some interval or consistent period of time the borough should look at annexing lands.

“I think this should be a rare occurrence,” Botelho said. “... I don’t think we’d be here with this today if not for the Petersburg action.”

COW looks at process for finding new city manager

The Assembly also met as the Committee of the Whole and discussed replacing the city manager. Swope is retiring March 31.

Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker wanted to have input from all members on a list of qualifications of what it wants in a new manager.

For his part, Wanamaker’s list of desirable attributes includes skills in operations and human resources, an understanding of Alaska law, experience in obtaining grants and top negotiation skills, along with other attributes.

“We need to pull these different traits together that come from all nine of us, then we know what our ideal candidate looks like and what skill sets we want them to have,” Wanamaker said. “We need to take a look at the position description as well. We have in a lot of resolutions and ordinances, given the city manager duties that aren’t necessarily in the city charter. This is a strenuous difficult job. It requires a great deal of skill, energy and competence to do it well.”

Assemblywoman Karen Crane was supportive.

“I understand the interest in urban renewal experience,” she said. “I certainly would not want it to be a limiting factor in considering an application.”

Crane pointed to a couple other items on Wanamaker’s list with the same concerns.

“I think it’s a fine, desirable qualification but that’s it,” she said.

Wanamaker agreed, saying the traits are not limiting factors.

“These are characteristics for an ideal candidate,” he said. “The more of them they have, the more I’m going to like them as an ideal candidate. I wouldn’t eliminate someone for a lack of one.”

Botelho said he wants staff to clean up the 2008-2009 criteria appropriately (as it has outdated information on Assembly members, city projects and other related items). He also provided a proposed timeline and salary range. The timeline will start an application period launching sometime soon after the end of this week. The deadline is Dec. 1, the deadline for Assembly screening of the top five is Dec. 15 and Jan. 27, 2012 for completion of interviews and follow-up. The Assembly expects to be able to make an offer by Jan. 30.

“That gives a person currently employed enough time to provide sufficient notice and still provide time for a transition period with Rod,” Botelho said.

The salary range is expected to be $130,000 to $150,000. Botelho said Anchorage and Fairbanks’ managers are at $118,000 and $108,000, respectively. Mat-Su’s manager is at $165,000, Ketchikan $170,000, and Kenai $142,000. Botelho said Anchorage and Fairbanks both have a strong mayor, reducing the manager’s duties and pay. The other three have a stronger council-to-manager system and that’s where the high pay range lies.

Assembly members expressed comfort with the range and deadlines.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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