Merrill Sanford resigned as Juneau's deputy mayor Tuesday morning following a Monday night Juneau Assembly debate on his resolution to place a one-year moratorium on city capital improvement projects. The resolution failed with a 4-to-4 Assembly vote. One member was missing.
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"I decided I needed to speak more as an individual Assembly member," Sanford said.
Sanford asked the Assembly to consider a year-long slow down on construction projects in an effort to relieve taxpayers and create a sustained work environment for Juneau. With $300 million in city construction projects scheduled for the next five years, the Juneau workforce is over-stimulated, he said.
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"There are more tradesman than ever from out of town," he said.
Putting a short hold on projects and his concern for other issues was enough cause to step aside, Sanford said. Deputy mayor is a team roll that hinders his conservative viewpoint. Kensington issues, the Juneau access road and development issues are some of the topics that Sanford wants more freedom to speak about during Assembly meetings.
"I hold my tongue on certain topics I believe in and my constituents believe in," he said.
Mayor Bruce Botelho said he spoke with Sanford early Tuesday and Sanford was not prepared to reconsider.
"I'm sorry to lose him in that role," Botelho said.
Assembly member Jonathan Anderson said the city has done a lot of projects in the last few years and that he and other members of the Assembly thought Sanford's motion was a good one to consider. Concern for school remodels caused Anderson to seek a schools exemption in a resolution of his own which also lost in a tie vote.
Anderson said a moratorium without exempting school improvement projects could cost the city access to the 70 percent reimbursement program the state offers. Schools are constantly in need of remodeling, he said.
Sanford said he was a life-long supporter of schools, but no school would "fall down" or close for lack of repair if the city withholds bond issues from the 2008 ballot.
The moratorium resolution could return in the near future, next summer or next October, Sanford said.
Anderson called Sanford the most dedicated member of the Assembly.
"His perspective is needed," he said.
As senior Assembly member, Randy Wanamaker will serve as pro-tem deputy mayor. A new deputy will be selected at the Jan. 7 regular Assembly, Botelho said.
Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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