Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/30/1999 08:06 AM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
HB 133 - VOTER APPROVAL OF SERVICE AREA CHANGES                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0096                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE, Sponsor of HB 133, Alaska State Legislature,                                                              
stated that HB 133 is a working example of democracy at the local                                                               
level.  He informed the committee that there are some 200 limited                                                               
service areas in Alaska.  These are mainly road service areas that                                                              
allow folks to assess themselves for road maintenance.  These                                                                   
service areas are able to hire a private contractor with the funds                                                              
they have assessed rather than requesting the city or the state to                                                              
perform the road maintenance.  In this situation, the service area                                                              
determines the level of service desired.  The service area elects                                                               
a road service supervisor, who is the point person for the area to                                                              
deal with the private contractor.  The local municipality would                                                                 
conduct the election for the service area and receives an                                                                       
administrative fee for that service.  Representative Bunde hoped                                                                
that there would be support of this local participation.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE pointed out that HB 133 would allow the                                                                    
abolishment of a service area subject to the approval of a majority                                                             
of the voters residing within and around the service area.  This                                                                
would avoid the possibility of a small area being dominated by the                                                              
votes of the surrounding larger area.  If there is desire to                                                                    
abolish and replace a service area, there must be separate approval                                                             
by a majority of the voters residing within an existing service                                                                 
area and voters residing in the proposed service area, but outside                                                              
the existing service area.  If there is a desire to alter or                                                                    
combine service areas, there must be approval by the majority of                                                                
voters who reside in each of the service areas or in a proposed                                                                 
service area.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI noted that the committee packet includes                                                               
an article dated February 19, 1998 from the Chugach Eagle River                                                                 
Star which discussed legislation regarding service areas.  In that                                                              
article the opponent to that legislation stated, as reported by the                                                             
Chugach Eagle River Star, "...the legislation would 'severely                                                                   
restrict' the ability of home-rule municipalities such as Anchorage                                                             
in managing their affairs."  She asked Representative Bunde what                                                                
his response to that would be.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0455                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated that there must constantly be a                                                                     
balancing of the needs of small entities and the municipality.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI inquired as to whether the Municipality of                                                             
Anchorage supported HB 133.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE noted that he had not had any lobbying in                                                                  
opposition to HB 133.  In further response to Representative                                                                    
Murkowski, Representative Bunde informed the committee that he had                                                              
not contacted the Alaska Municipal League (AML).                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HARRIS asked if HB 133 would pertain to subdivision                                                                 
streets only or would it be relevant to main arterials as well.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE clarified that HB 133 would pertain to the                                                                 
local streets within the service area.  The main arterials are                                                                  
either state or municipal roads.  Representative  Bunde explained                                                               
that a member of a local road service area would pay for the                                                                    
maintenance of their street and would also be assessed for the                                                                  
overall maintenance of city streets if the person resides within a                                                              
municipality.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HALCRO commented that part of the beauty of limited                                                                 
road service is that there is local control of the service.  If the                                                             
service of a contractor is not liked, the contractor can be fired.                                                              
If the limited road service area wanted to pay more for better                                                                  
services, the limited road service area would make that                                                                         
recommendation.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE agreed with Co-Chairman Halcro.  Many in                                                                   
limited road service areas, due to the direct relationship with                                                                 
those maintaining the roads, receive more prompt service.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0707                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON noted that he has had much experience in this                                                              
area through his service on a local road board.  He agreed with                                                                 
Representative Bunde's characterization that this is a balancing                                                                
between local control and the bigger picture.  He asked of those of                                                             
us who believe there is a bigger picture, do we have the right to                                                               
force consolidations and ignore the local control.  Representative                                                              
Dyson said that people should have the right of self-determination,                                                             
which he believed HB 133 would protect, even when some believe                                                                  
there is a better or wiser way.  He stated that the local road                                                                  
boards and parks and recreation boards in the Municipality of                                                                   
Anchorage are, for the most part, very efficient.  Representative                                                               
Dyson viewed HB 133 as allowing the continuation of an efficient                                                                
manner of business as well as allowing local participation and                                                                  
direction of services.  Representative Dyson suspected that the                                                                 
Municipality of Anchorage would weigh in with ambivalence on this                                                               
issue.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HALCRO informed the committee that in 1996 there was an                                                             
issue on the ballot that would have forced police services to those                                                             
on the Hillside in Anchorage.  Under the unification of the City of                                                             
Anchorage, he believed that the framers of the charter acknowledged                                                             
the presence of service areas and wanted to protect those service                                                               
areas.  Some of the arguments utilized with the police issue do not                                                             
apply to the limited road service area.  This issue is completely                                                               
different.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE agreed with Co-Chairman Halcro's comments that                                                             
the police service issue is absolutely different than this issue.                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON respectfully disagreed.  He believed that the                                                              
police service issue argues the same principle.  Representative                                                                 
Dyson reiterated the need for self-determination.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 1198                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MERLE JANTZ, Road Service Area Commissioner, testified via                                                                      
teleconference from Fairbanks.  He informed the committee that                                                                  
currently, he is chairing an ad hoc committee of road service                                                                   
commissioners in the Fairbanks area.  Mr. Jantz noted that his                                                                  
interest emanates from his position as a road service area                                                                      
commissioner of a small area that the local municipality attempted                                                              
to annex a large portion of without the area's concurrence.  He                                                                 
pointed out that last year a few of the road service commissioners                                                              
met to discuss budget and annexation issues.  The number one issue                                                              
of the commissioners was that both areas, the existing and the new                                                              
area, participate in the election for a service area.  Mr. Jantz                                                                
supported HB 133 and urged the committee to move it forward.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BILL MCDONALD, Co-Chair, Annexation Subcommittee, Fairbanks                                                                     
Northstar Borough Road Service Areas, testified via teleconference                                                              
from Fairbanks.  He informed the committee that there has been                                                                  
overwhelming agreement that both parties in the old and new service                                                             
area should have the right to vote on any issue involving                                                                       
annexation.  Mr. McDonald pointed out that the notification process                                                             
has been a problem which the subcommittee is currently addressing.                                                              
Mr. McDonald supported HB 133.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
RANDY FRANK, Road Service Area Commissioner, Co-Chair, Annexation                                                               
Subcommittee, Fairbanks Northstar Borough Road Service Areas,                                                                   
testified via teleconference from Fairbanks.  Mr. Frank supported                                                               
HB 133 and echoed Mr. Jantz and Mr. McDonald's comments.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
RANDY CLENDANIEL, Chairman, Airway Road Service Area in North Pole,                                                             
testified via teleconference from Fairbanks.  Mr. Clendaniel                                                                    
commented that he had discussed his frustrations with this issue                                                                
with Representative Therriault.  Several years ago the borough                                                                  
attempted to annex an area that had never had a road service area.                                                              
The area had charged itself a mill rate for 12 years, but the                                                                   
borough expected the area to become annexed and therefore moving                                                                
the cash to the borough for the five year period desired.  Mr.                                                                  
Clendaniel believed that if government is kept at the lowest                                                                    
economic denominator, things are cheaper.  Mr. Clendaniel concurred                                                             
with HB 133.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1539                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
HENRY CORBIN, Road Service Area 17, testified via teleconference                                                                
from the Mat-Su Valley.  He said that people in his area were not                                                               
in favor of HB 133 which would alter a system that already works.                                                               
He stated that he was happy with the current system.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
JIM NORCROSS, Willow Road Service Area, Member, Advisory Road                                                                   
Service Area Board for the Mat-Su Borough, testified via                                                                        
teleconference from the Mat-Su Valley.  He clarified that HB 133 is                                                             
essentially the same as SB 208.  Mr. Norcross expressed concern                                                                 
that the language in HB 133 refers to service areas, although the                                                               
primary concern and discussion is road service areas.  He asked if                                                              
he was correct that the language in HB 133 only specifies service                                                               
areas.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said Mr. Norcross was correct.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. NORCROSS informed the committee that the Willow Road Service                                                                
Area discussed SB 208 in December of 1998.  During that meeting,                                                                
the district assembly person, three road supervisors, and 21 public                                                             
members voted in support of SB 208.  At the Area-wide Advisory                                                                  
Board meeting on March 18, 1999 there was a vote taken to support                                                               
HB 133 with only one dissenter.  If HB 133 is not passed, Mr.                                                                   
Norcross feared that the Mat-Su Valley would once again attempt to                                                              
consolidate road service areas which would place the power in the                                                               
core area, Palmer, from which it would be distributed.  The local                                                               
road service areas would have lost control of their funds, their                                                                
control in general with regard to the determination of which roads                                                              
would be repaired and in what order.  Mr. Norcross felt such a                                                                  
situation would be a great injustice.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. NORCROSS referred to a previous statement that the road service                                                             
area would have the power to hire and fire contractors.  He stated                                                              
that the Willow Road Service Area does not have that power, but                                                                 
rather answer to a Road Superintendent hired by the borough who                                                                 
administers the contract as the road service area requests                                                                      
maintenance and/or repair work which is dictated by the public.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE announced that he had to leave for a                                                                       
subcommittee meeting, but that Patti Swenson, his Legislative                                                                   
Assistant, would be present for questions.  With regards to the                                                                 
hiring and firing of the contractor, the residents of the service                                                               
area can talk with the person elected to administer the road                                                                    
service area who has the right to hire someone new.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
KAREN HENDRICKSON, Talus West Limited Road Service Area, testified                                                              
via teleconference from Anchorage.  Ms. Hendrickson supported                                                                   
HB 133.  She noted that the Talus West Limited Road Service Area is                                                             
a suburban urban road service area surrounded by the Anchorage road                                                             
service area.  Ms. Hendrickson informed the committee that a                                                                    
credible municipal source had informed her that a certain faction                                                               
of the Municipality of Anchorage is attempting to abolish or annex                                                              
the limited road service areas within the municipality.  Due to the                                                             
heavy bark beetle kill on the Hillside, the municipality will                                                                   
attempt to say that the limited road service areas do not allow                                                                 
adequate access for emergency vehicles.  Therefore, the                                                                         
municipality will attempt to force the annexation of these roads                                                                
into the municipality on the basis that the roads are substandard.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENDRICKSON pointed out that even if the limited road service                                                               
areas wanted to upgrade their roads, there are two problems.  The                                                               
limited road service areas have a sunset clause which requires a                                                                
vote to maintain a limited road service area every three years.                                                                 
The sunset clause eliminates the possibility of bonding.  The other                                                             
problem is that the limited road service area can only tax itself                                                               
in the area of maintenance and improvements; the improvements                                                                   
cannot be capital improvements.  Therefore, the limited road                                                                    
service area would not have a means to obtain funding to upgrade                                                                
the roads.  Ms. Hendrickson emphasized that HB 133 would protect                                                                
the limited road service area from such a situation.  She informed                                                              
the committee that she is a housewife who became involved in this                                                               
issue because she believed the local area could better decide the                                                               
needs of the area than the municipal government.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 2013                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN HALCRO inquired as to how long Ms. Hendrickson had been                                                             
a resident of the Hillside.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENDRICKSON informed the committee that she had been a Hillside                                                             
resident for about 10 years and a board member for about 2 years.                                                               
In further response to Co-Chairman Halcro, Ms. Hendrickson said                                                                 
that during a heavy snow fall the streets would be plowed within                                                                
two or three hours.  She noted that the Talus West area has an                                                                  
extremely good contractor.  The Talus West area reviews the                                                                     
contractor yearly.  The administrator at Public Works for the                                                                   
municipality notifies the service area when the contract is up for                                                              
review.  At that time, a review can occur and a new contract can be                                                             
requested.  Ms. Hendrickson emphasized that her area is extremely                                                               
happy with their service.  Ms. Hendrickson pointed out that the                                                                 
services are provided at about one-third of what the municipality                                                               
would charge for similar services.  She believed that the longest                                                               
it has taken to plow was about six hours; she did not believe                                                                   
anyone in the Anchorage service area received such prompt service.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
There being no further public testimony, the public testimony was                                                               
closed.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 2103                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON moved to report HB 133 out of committee with                                                               
individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note.                                                               
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    

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