WASILLA — City council will welcome a pair of new faces Oct. 22. First, the group will certify unofficial results of last week’s election on Monday following the canvassing board’s counting of early, absentee and questioned ballots.
The board released its results Friday afternoon, which confirmed Wasilla City Council newcomer Steven Lovell’s close victory over Seat A incumbent Taffina Katkus. Early returns after Tuesday’s election had Lovell with 53 percent of the vote. Katkus made up some ground through early and absentee ballots. But in the end it wasn’t enough, with Lovell garnering 393 votes (51.5 percent) to Katkus’ 357 (46.8 percent).
Seat A was the only contested race on the municipal ballot. Brandon Wall was re-elected to finish out the term he was appointed to for Seat B when former councilman Steve Menard was recalled earlier this year. His seat will be up for election again in 2013. The other uncontested race saw contractor and Wasilla Planning Commission chair Clark Buswell win Seat F on the council, previously held by deputy mayor Doug Holler, who was term-limited from running again.
With the addition of Lovell and Buswell, Wasilla City Council is shaping up to be more friendly toward mayor Verne Rupright, who drew sometimes harsh criticism from Katkus during her three years in office. Both men say they believe Rupright is doing a good job for the city.
“I’m really pleased with the direction the mayor’s taking the city,” Lovell said. “I think he’s got some good ideas and I thought he probably could use some people on (the council) who can help move it forward.”
Lovell said he didn’t agree with his opponent on a proposal Katkus made to raise the city’s sales tax cap from $500 to $1,000.
“That’s doubling the tax without going to the voters and letting people put their 2 cents in,” he said. “I would’ve rather seen them raise the sales tax by a penny … rather than bonding (for projects). You don’t borrow money unless you really have to. Pay as you go.”
For Buswell, serving on city council is something he’s contemplated for a while, but kept pushing off. He said he comes to the council “with no ax to grind,” and that it “bothers me when people get elected because things don’t go their way and they get their feelings hurt.”
Buswell said he’ll continue his appointment to the Mat-Su Borough Board of Adjustments and Appeals and that he wants the city to continue on its current path. He also supports raising the sales tax rate to collect money for infrastructure projects without having to ask voters to bond.
“It’s under control and running fine,” he said. “I’d like to do this forward funding. I think that’s a smart idea. But, I want it limited, because say we get a new mayor in and we don’t know who that would be. I don’t want this big slush fund sitting there. I want to make sure it’s money that’s been anchored down for projects.”
One of those proposed pay-if-forward projects is a new $14 million library, a facility Lovell said the city desperately needs. The Wasilla Library had 106,000 visitors last year, of which 39 percent were city residents.
“We need a larger library, no question,” he said. “If we could forward fund it, we’re going to continue to grow and design that library so that 20, 25 years down the road we can expand it instead of building a new one.”
The city also needs a new police station, wastewater treatment plant and numerous road improvements.
“If we don’t bring our infrastructure up to speed, it’s not going to get any cheaper to build tomorrow, and we can’t keep kicking this can down the road,” Lovell said. “We still have that small-town feeling, and I’d really, really like to continue with that (as the city grows).”
Contact reporter Greg Johnson at email@example.com or 352-2269.