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Petersburg, neighbors weigh in on borough

City seeks new borough formation, neighbors mostly opposed

Posted: November 7, 2011 - 1:04am

More of Petersburg’s neighbors, including numerous local government and tribal entities, are lining up against Petersburg’s attempt to form a new borough, or at least that borough’s proposed boundaries.

Petersburg got initial opposition from Juneau when it eyed land on which the capital city had hoped to one day expand into, but by the time the public comment period on the Petersburg’s borough petition closed, the opposition was nearly unanimous.

Leading the charge against borough formation is the city of Kupreanof, Petersburg’s closest neighbor, which has filed detailed objections to being included in a new borough which it says will not give equal weight to its concerns.

“The proposed Petersburg borough provides little to no discernable benefit to the residents of Kupreanof,” the Kupreanof City Council stated in a resolution opposing inclusion in the borough.

Kupreanof instead suggested a borough boundary of Wrangell Narrows, excluding Kupreanof and all of Petersburg’s claims to Kupreanof Island from the new borough.

Kupreanof Mayor Dana Thynes said the city’s residents, 27 at last count, would have no influence in a Petersburg borough dominated by the nearly 3,000 people in the current city of Petersburg.

Residents of other unincorporated communities nearby also objected to getting taxed in a new borough for services they wouldn’t be provided and in which their relatively small numbers won’t give them much of a voice.

“Our voice will be but a whisper,” wrote Delores Charlene Anderson, of Keene Channel, south of Petersburg.

Petersburg City Council member Bill Tremblay called the fear of taxation without representation a “red herring,” and said those who wanted more representation could simply run for office.

They’d probably be elected, he said, as some recent elections haven’t had enough candidates for all the seats.

Other residents said communications and transportation links to Petersburg were too tenuous to even regularly attend city meetings.

“Participation in borough government would be difficult and expensive and in times of inclement weather, impossible for remote areas such as ours,” wrote Laura Howard, a Kupreanof Island resident.

Also opposing inclusion of any part of Kupreanof Island in the proposed borough were the city of Kake, the Organized Village of Kake tribal government and the Kake School District. The lands around Kake on Kupreanof Island had been “traditional territory of the Kake Indians since time immemorial,” the city and village said in a joint statement.

Kake may want to form its own borough with that area, the resolution said.

One neighbor not opposed to the borough formation was the Wrangell Borough. It had previously negotiated the boundary between the two boroughs before the city of Wrangell formed its own borough.

Several Petersburg residents supported inclusion of the neighboring areas in the new borough, saying they should be taxed to support the city services many of those outside the current city use.

“Individuals living outside the city of Petersburg, at this time, carry no part of the burden for payment of the city’s required minimum contribution for education,” said Robert Thomason, superintendent of Petersburg City Schools.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juenauempire.com.

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