PALMER — While resident initiatives have become increasingly popular in recent months, Palmer Clerk Norma Alley informed the Palmer City Council that the recall petition for councilman Richard Best had failed to meet sufficient grounds for recall during the council meeting on Tuesday. . As the city of Palmer follows state statute and there is nothing within state statute in regards to refiling petitions, the fate of the recall petition is still undetermined.
“The application is insufficient to meet the standards set out in Alaska statutes,” wrote Alley.
Alley also reported that a sharp increase in requests for absentee by mail ballots has been received in advance of the fall elections. Alley is confident that the number of additional absentee by mail ballots is enough to trigger CARES act monies that can be used to offset the costs.
The council also discussed a $3,000 feasibility study from Resource Data Inc., for a vote by mail election. Valdez is the only city thus far in Alaska that has entirely changed the way they run their elections due to the coronavirus, operating a vote by mail election this spring.
Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ailis Vann briefed the board on what is and is not going on in Palmer this summer. Vann regretfully informed the council that Colony Days has been canceled, but the Midsummer Garden and Art Faire is still set to continue with a wine walk on July 10. Vann also mentioned that Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer will join the GPCC Coffee Chat to discuss election security on June 3.
Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries discussed during her report that she had met with Rep. DeLena Johnston and Sen. Shelley Hughes to discuss when CARES act funds would be disbursed. DeVries also said that she has already spoken with the commissioner for the Department of Public Transportation, John Mackinnon, and there will be no alterations of the entrance to Commercial Drive from the Glenn Highway this summer.
DeVries also noted that the city of Saroma has requested the postponement of the 40th anniversary of the Sister City program until 2021. DeVries proclaimed May to be Older Americans Month and Bike Month.
During his brief stint as the Palmer’s Acting Manager, Brad Hanson brought in a substantial amount of savings during his May 20 discussion with members from the Department of Public Safety. On Tuesday, the council unanimously voted to approve Action Memorandum 20-040 to establish an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Palmer and DPS for DPS to operate a dispatch services out of the public safety building in Palmer. DPS Commissioner Amanda Price said that she hopes to continue improving dispatch centers throughout the state. In 2017, the Mat-Su Borough left the Palmer Alaska State Troopers post as a dispatch hub and signed a contract with MATCOM in Wasilla. In 2018, the city of Palmer purchased new radio equipment and consoles with the help of $125,000 in grant funds from the Department of Homeland Security. Hanson said that the proposed savings of the 2021 Intergovernmental Agreement would be $640,000 at minimum, equivalent to seven percent of the general fund budget for the city.
After much deliberation and many forms, the council passed resolution 20-010 on Tuesday, after it was amended once successfully. Resolution 20-010 would establish term limits for the mayor and council positions. Councilwoman Sabrena Combs moved to amend the ordinance that is substantially similar to an existing and certified citizen’s initiative by changing the amount of years someone can serve consecutively to three consecutive council terms and three consecutive mayoral terms before requiring a break.
Combs’ motion passed unanimously, but Councilman Richard Best’s motion to split the motion into two separate ordinances with one for the mayoral term limits and one for the council term limits failed 4-3 with DeVries voting no to break the 4-3 tie.
“I think it would be simpler if we were to divide this into two separate resolutions and two separate questions to the voters, one being term limits of the mayor,” said Best. “We would take out all that confusion. It would just simply be a vote of the people on years of service.”
City Attorney Michael Gatti advised that the council not split the motion, as the existing motion as amended remained substantially similar to the citizen’s initiative that we certified. If the motion was further amended and made dissimilar to the certified citizen’s initiative, both would potentially appear on the ballot.
“That’s not what i’m here to do is kick issues down the road. I want to deal with issues and I think that’s what we need to do,” Councilwoman Jill Valerius said.
The motion on the ordinance as amended passed 5-2 with Best and Deputy Mayor Linda Combs voting against allowing the Palmer voters to cast their ballot for or against term limits in the fall.
“Our voters asked us to do this and were doing it. That’s our job. This is going to the voters again in October and they will give their decision as to what they want,” said Sabrena Combs.