PALMER — With newly minted and returning council members at the table, the Palmer city Council picked right back up where it left off, discussing Palmer city elections at its Tuesday meeting.
City Clerk Norma Alley reported that she would be meeting with Borough Clerk Lonnie McKechnie to discuss how the Mat-Su Borough does elections. Alley’s report was elongated when other election issues were also discussed. Alley noted that the city of Palmer does not produce election pamphlets any more in conjunction with the borough, since the borough moved its election date to November after a passed voter referendum last year. Councilman Steve Carrington asked Alley if she believed it cost the city more to host elections on its own. The council then discussed with city Attorney Michael Gatti to possibilities of changing the election date to November, which Gatti determined would not be possible for the 2020 election cycle, as the affected election date had already passed.
Added to the discussion was the ballot advisory question passed by city of Palmer voters to enact term limits on the city council. With budget deliberations arriving at the next council meeting, Carrington made a motion to enter into a committee on the whole in late January to take up all election related topics. The committee on the whole will not be limited to one agenda item, and instead will take place at a special meeting prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting to find a direction for the term limits ordinance and possible election date change.
“We’re not going to wait until June or July to discuss it. We’re going to have it on the 28th of January at a public meeting and it’ll be a committee on the whole so everybody will be able to go back and forth,” said Mayor Edna DeVries.
DeVries said that the ordinance needed more legal analysis through the state’s Title 29 for more clarity. Voters passed the term limits ordinance by the widest margin of any race in last week’s elections. Alley noted that many voters asked about candidate pamphlets that had previously been produced with borough candidates as well. If Palmer is to move elections to November with the borough, Palmer would have to update their ballot counting equipment, as they had done in 2018.
Palmer City Manager Nathan Wallace announced that retiring Palmer Police Chief Lance Ketterling will be succeeded by current PPD Commander Dwayne Shelton. Shelton will assume the role on Dec. 16. Wallace also noted that the Department of Transportation hopes to have the Glenn Highway work finished by the end of October, weather permitting.
Wallace will present the first draft of the Palmer budget at the Oct. 22 meeting. Wallace is taking a week of vacation and Department of Public Works director Chris Nall will be acting manager. Wallace lightheartedly joked that he hopes his absence is uneventful as the last time he left Nall in charge, there was an earthquake.
Board of Economic Development Chair Dusty Silva gave her quarterly report to the council. Silva was pleased with the communication from DOT on the construction that has torn up Palmer this summer. Silva also noted that she attended a conference in Talkeetna on the economic impact of the outdoors with Community Development Director Brad Hanson.
“They focused the seminar this year on gateway communities which Palmer is most certainly a gateway community to Hatcher Pass and Knik,” said Silva.
Councilwomen Julie Berberich and Sabrena Combs, and Deputy Mayor Linda Combs will attend the 40th anniversary of the Saroma sister city exchange next summer.