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Cities cool on forming joint borough

Municipal leaders discuss options, triggered by suggestion cities may be annexed to Haines

Posted: Monday, February 05, 2001

Glacier Bay-area community leaders know they could be forced into a borough, but they're not sure if it's time to form their own.

The state has been looking at creating regional governments throughout Alaska, either by incorporation of communities into new boroughs or annexation into existing boroughs.

"The whole concept doesn't appeal to us," said Vicki Wisenbaugh, president of the Tenakee Springs City Council. "We're real concerned about the loss of autonomy in regards to land use as well as an increase in taxes without an increase in services."

Wisenbaugh and other Tenakee Springs residents participated by teleconference during Thursday night's meeting in Gustavus to discuss borough options involving Glacier Bay communities.

Hoonah and Pelican officials attended the meeting while Elfin Cove was invited but did not participate.

"It was a very good atmosphere," said Hoonah City Administrator Keith Bettridge. "The meeting was based on information, not emotion."

Pelican Mayor Kathie Wasserman does not think the communities are ready to proceed with borough formation. She said they're just at the information-gathering stage.

"Obviously, some of this is being driven by the reaction to the Haines thing," said Wasserman, referring to a recent inquiry by a Haines Borough official into the process of annexing Skagway, as well as Gustavus and other areas near Glacier Bay.

Haines Borough officials and a representative of the state Department of Community and Economic Development also participated by teleconference during last week's meeting.

"We were trying to find out where Haines was coming from," said Judith Wood, acting chairwoman of the Gustavus Community Association. "They explained it was just one question from an assemblyman and they weren't interested in any legislative annexation proposals."

Representatives of the Hoonah Indian Association also attended the meeting.

"They're a valid entity that is affected," Bettridge said. "They are another equal partner is this."

The town leaders will be talking with their respective city officials and community residents about the next step, if any.

"We know borough formation is out there lurking around, whether it's threats from Haines or threats from the state," Wasserman said.

"We're going to do research to see what direction we're going," Bettridge said. "If it's not feasible, we don't want to do it. If it is feasible, we still may not want to do it. But if it's required by other communities or legislators, we want to be prepared to do it."

Mike Sica can be reached at msica@juneau-empire.com.



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