Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/30/1999 08:06 AM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.