Jeff Gail

Jeff Gail, of the YAK, spoke during the Palmer City Council meeting.

PALMER — The Palmer City Council became the second city in the Valley to approve monies for a study by the Alaska Municipal League on how municipalities can properly collect online sales tax in the wake of the Wayfair vs. South Dakota Supreme Court decision. The council also presented resolution 19-10 for public hearing appropriating $13,134 for the Ventrac sidewalk snow vehicle.

“There’s been some discussion on social media and in the press about this online sales tax being something new and for Palmer it’s not new,” city manager Nathan Wallace said.

Wallace detailed two sections within the existing Palmer Municipal Code pertaining to the collection of sales tax. The first discusses where the sale is actually made, affecting goods purchased online but delivered within Palmer city limits. The second section of the PMC discusses sales promotion within the city. Wallace said that the city continues to approach online retailers to ask them to participate in collecting sales tax, but that there is little the city can do regarding enforcement. Third-party retailers such as Amazon have been collecting sales tax, and Wallace said that they have been in communications with Amazon regarding the city boundaries.

“We collect sales tax to maintain our infrastructure,” Wallace said

The study conducted by the AML will determine how online sales tax collection is facilitated within the state. Wallace said that the likelihood of the study is to craft a marketplace facilitator law for Alaska.

“Has AML put out anything into how they’re going to go about doing this, or are we just kind of throwing money at it?” Councilman David Fuller asked.

Councilwoman Sabrena Combs sits on the AML board and informed the council that the study should be ready for action in May and there has been ongoing discussion since November about how to implement it. Wasilla voted to pay its $10,000 share, and Palmer’s share would require $5,000. If the city were not to buy into the study, they would still be able to collect online sales tax but would not have influence in crafting the legislation.

“If they want to make groceries exempt, there’s no way we’re participating. It will devastate the city,” Wallace said.

Action Memorandum 19-21 authorizing the $5,000 contribution was passed. The council also unanimously approved a $5,000 community grant to the YAK for renovations at its new location. Jeff Gail, who runs the YAK, spoke in support of the measure. The council also presented for public hearing Resolution 19-10 to purchase the Ventrac for public hearing. The cost of the Ventrac and all of its four attachments is $27,966, requiring the extra appropriation form the amount previously budgeted. The city has deployed four-wheelers with plows in the past as well as a John Deere tractor, but currently uses a road grader to clear sidewalks after the roads have been cleared. There is only one city employee designated to clear sidewalks. Wallace said at one point in time, the city did not clear sidewalks, and described trying to clear sidewalks with improper pieces of equipment as trying to use a hammer to push a screw in. The resolution was approved unanimously.

“I think this is just another step in making Palmer more livable,” Mayor Edna DeVries said.

Wallace also detailed the good and bad news from the state regarding the request for a crosswalk and lighting on Arctic Boulevard and Valley Way. The proposed crosswalk would cost around $62,000. The city has already set aside $25,000 for the project. The council also unanimously passed action memorandum 19-20 entering into a new five-year contract with Eagle Golf Course Management to operate the Palmer Golf Course.

“I assumed a contract that was already going and we just kind of kept it going. At that time the golf course was kind of still struggling to make ends meet and now it’s evolved. It’s gotten better and the whole operation’s gotten better. It was time to make a change and just do something different,” Palmer Golf Course Director of Golf George Collum III said.

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