Sabrena Combs

PALMER — The Palmer City Council approved improvements on the Palmer Airport to the tune of over $150,000 on Tuesday night, along with other regularly scheduled business in their first meeting of 2019.

City Manager Nathan Wallace updated the Council on the Wayfair vs. South Dakota Supreme Court Case. City of Wasilla Attorney Leslie Need has been informing their council about this decision since the case was decided last summer. The decision allows municipalities to collect sales tax on entities that do a minimum of $100,000 in sales or 200 individual transactions online. Municipalities have not yet determined how this sales tax would be collected, but a working group was put together at the meeting of the Alaska Municipal League. The group expects to conduct research on how the advent of online sales tax would affect Municipalities. For preliminary research, the group is asking for $5,000 donation from a city the size of Palmer, which Wallace said would likely come out of the Manager’s Discretionary Fund if the city of Palmer were to have interest in pursuing the research. It is yet undetermined if the $5,000 buy in for research would require further donation in the future. Juneau, Soldotna, and Bethel have already jumped on board, and Wasilla may be the next to follow. Wallace is unsure if, in that case, the city of Palmer would have to comply with exemptions from the state on items like groceries. City Councilwoman Sabrena Combs, who sits on the AML Board of Directors, said that a preliminary report would likely be out by the summer. Wallace reminded the council that the decision is not imminent, and the process of collecting online sales tax would be a long and arduous one if the council decides to go down that path.

“We’re not going to come to an answer on online sales tax in 2019, we’re just not going to,” Wallace said.

Action Memorandum 19-009, approving $152,002 for the Airfield Safety Improvements Project, was approved unanimously. The safety improvements are not part of the ongoing runway renovations, but are part of engineering and design work to improve safety measures at the Bud Woods Municipal Airport.

“The FAA has given us, not the official green light, but our project qualifies. Typically when they qualify, they get funded to do safety improvements which will be some new runway lighting, some security fencing, there’s a laundry list of things,” Wallace said.

Katrina Nygaard, who works as an urban planner at Stantec, introduced herself to the board. Nygaard is working with the Mat-Su Borough to assist in area wide planning. The work she does is funded 100 percent by grants and she detailed to the board her three phase plan of studying the area to help city officials improve connectivity for a variety of modes of transportation in the downtown area and to assist in planning development. Nygaard will use existing studies to determine goals and feasibility before assisting the city into an action oriented plan.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, we just want to move in a positive direction,” Nygaard said.

Nygaard hopes to have completed her assessments and planning assistance by the fall. Councilwoman Linda Combs brought up the 2006 comprehensive plan that the city adopted as a starting point.

“Having been here and been a part of the 2006 comprehensive plan, looking for what the differences, are I’ve been quoted here many times: we need to take that plan off the shelf, dust it off, and do the checklist. It was very comprehensive, very worked out, and had we had wonderful folks come from outside that had the expertise to help us,” Linda Combs said.

The council will meet in executive session with Nygaard to discuss assistance in transportation and development planning.

On a relatively slow business night for the council, the main discussion was over Councilwoman Sabrena Combs’ request to recuse herself from voting on Action Memorandum 19-006, renewing the liquor license for the Mat-Su Miners. Combs serves as president of the Board of Directors of the Alaska Baseball League organization and operates the beer shack in the summer. Though neither is a paid position, Combs collects tips from the beer shack, and thus recused herself from the vote on 19-006. The measure was approved without opposition, as were the liquor licenses for Humdingers Gourmet Pizza Company, La Fiesta, the Palmer Bar and the Palmer Golf Course.

Contact Frontiersman reporter Tim Rockey at


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