WASILLA - The people who live just outside Wasilla want to keep it that way.
The Wasilla City Council has asked the administration to research the costs, benefits and public opinion of annexing new land on all sides of the city. The issue was not on this week's council agenda, but those in attendance still lined up to have their say. The comments were almost uniformly against annexation, with many contending the city has not released enough information about its intentions.
Kathy Fort said she and her husband own several properties in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, but make it a point to buy outside Wasilla. With some of her properties in areas that might be annexed, Fort started a petition that she presented to the council with more than 400 signatures.
"When I went door-to-door, 98 percent of the people didn't know anything about it," she said, adding that "they don't want to have to buy the paper to know what is going on in their homes."
Others expressed concern about the cost of additional police and road maintenance.
After the meeting, Councilwoman Dianne Woodruff said it's clear the city is going to have to change its approach.
"The reality is that our communication skills need to be better," she told the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. "There's a large group of folks who don't want to be in the city for various reasons. Some of those reasons are based on misconceptions, and some are legitimate concerns."
One of the misconceptions, Woodruff said, is that the city will force sewer and water on residents. Woodruff, however, said people who are happy with their functioning wells and septic systems can keep them.
Woodruff said those in annexed areas would benefit from decreased property taxes and increased police protection.
Woodruff encouraged people to keep coming to council meetings, but cautioned that just because the dissent is loud doesn't mean there are not people in support of annexation. Those silent supporters, she said, may have already had their questions answered or may feel intimidated by the hostility at the public forums.
Woodruff said if there is an area that is hotly contested, annexation should be put to a vote. If there is not a majority in favor, the city should not move forward, she said.
"If there is going to be any annexation in any area, we need to get back down to small groups," Woodruff said. "Essentially, we need to weed out those areas that are adamantly opposed."
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