Nikiski incorporation effort presses on without borough blessing

Aug 8, 2017

The city of Nikiski isn’t any closer to happening after the subject was briefly taken up by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly last week.

A resolution sponsored by Assembly member Wayne Ogle sought the body’s approval of the plan to incorporate Nikiski, which it has done in the past. Eventually, of course, those efforts fell short of the final goal of a city of Nikiski, but the folks behind the effort haven’t been dissuaded.

“The one thing about the community is that we do have a strong sense of self-determination and we want to be self-governed.”

That’s Stacy Oliva. She’s a co-chair of the group Citizens for Nikiski, which has spearheaded the latest push toward becoming a home rule city. The resolution that assembly member Ogle had on the agenda was tabled indefinitely. The topic came up during the assembly’s policies and proceedures committee meetings, where mayor Mike Navarre brought up several issues of concern, most notably how road maintenance across the borough could be affected by losing a significant chunk of the tax base that pays for it now. But supporters of the idea think they’ll get a better deal on better services in a private/public partnership; contracting out things like law enforcement or road service, instead of having those services dispensed directly through a local government. Paul Huber is the other co-chair of Citizens for Nikiski. He says the private/public approach allows the community to more quickly adapt to the boom and bust cycles that have defined Nikiski’s economy for years.

“We don’t have to be big. When you look at most governmental units today, you look at the borough, the state, the federal (government), when we’re going through a recession such as we are now, they don’t know what to do. There’s bitter bickering between all the different parties involved. It’s a difficult process to contract. Whereas in a public/private partnership, we’re not dealing with cutting somebody’s job, we’re just dealing with the contract.”

Oliva says the issue has become somewhat politicized, and she says there’s a bit of a learning curve for the group, which isn’t made up of planning and zoning experts, but they’re pushing forward with or without the blessing of the borough.

“You know, as lay people, we have to approach this the best that we can in response to a politicized process. We’re not experts in those political arenas. We’re just plugging away and continuing a determined, straight forward approach.”

The group has submitted an application to the state Local Control Board, which has been sent back for some revisions. Oliva says they’ll make the extended deadline of August 22nd to get a reworked plan submitted.