Committee recommends modified borough

Posted: Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Advisory Commission on Local Government wrapped up its work Saturday on the issue of borough formation in Alaska, suggesting something new.

"We passed out a model law proposing an administrative borough - a whole new borough," said committee member Rep. John Coghill, a Republican from North Pole.

"What we did is formulate a borough that has limited tax authority, limited land authority and no education responsibility," he said.

The report will go to the Legislature as a recommendation sometime before Jan. 15. Coghill said the committee discussed and agreed that the recommendation is "a proposal, not the proposal."

Multiple communities in Southeast Alaska have been looking to form boroughs but have had difficulty seeing eye-to-eye with the state government.

Coghill said the recommendation gives a template for rural areas to go to a governing systems that would be called boroughs but would not have the same taxing authority of second-class boroughs.

Ted Smith, mayor of Petersburg and chairman of a task force from 14 towns, said the recommendation still has to go through the Legislature and be accepted by local boundary commissions. He said the relationships between the state government and local governments concerning the issue have seemed confrontational.

"It makes it very difficult for a community to want to approach the state to approve a petition," Smith said.

The state should listen to the communities more, he said.

"I don't want to disenfranchise any community, but if that's the most advantageous for this community and Wrangell and other small communities in the area, than that's the way we want to go," Smith said.

"Who knows better of what's good for a community than the community itself?" he added.

Smith said the two words the Legislature should consider when discussing the recommendation are flexibility and cooperation.

"I think cooperation is the best answer to the whole thing. And I think if we have the flexibility and the cooperation ... I think the whole state would be inclined to move into a borough (classification) that would defray the education costs," he said.

Coghill and Smith agreed that the commission worked well together through the long process that has lasted for months.

"It was a culmination of about a summer's worth of work," he said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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