Jesse Sumner

Mat-Su Borough Assemblymember Jesse Sumner

PALMER — In a confusing vote, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted 4-3 on Tuesday to postpone passage of Action Memorandum 21-003 to approve a contract for $460,800 to repair the Shirley Towne Bridge in Willow until their Jan. 19 meeting.

The motion came from Assemblyman Jesse Sumner, who initially moved to combine AM 21-002 with the veto override of Resolution 20-123, which is scheduled for the Jan. 19 meeting and was not on the agenda at the meeting on Tuesday. Sumner then moved to postpone the action.

“I believe it needs further studying. In the light of the current fiscal situation I believe that this may not be advisable,” Sumner told Mayor Vern Halter as his reasoning.

Halter continued to question Sumner as to why he wanted to move to postpone the meeting.

“The postponement is for what reason? This money has already been allocated,” said Halter. “It hasn’t been expended yet, that’s what it does tonight. It’s a project that came out of the flood at Shirley Towne bridge and will be repaired to give a secondary access in Willow. It’s probably one of the best prices we’re ever going to see, we’re ever going to get. The money’s available, it’s ready, it’s willing. What’s the problem here.”

The Action Memorandum cites damage to the bridge during winter flooding in 2012 and consistent erosion of the bank.

“The bridge improvements are needed to extend and repair the bridge, so that an emergency access route is available across the creek in the event that the Michelle Drive bridge further downstream becomes impassible,” reads the AM.

Last winter, Halter declared an emergency when flooding at the Deneki Creek bridge stranded dozens of families across the creek without access. If the Shirley Towne bridge had been functional, it would have provided a second egress for Willow residents.

“Does the project have to be approved at this moment or can it be approved at the next meeting,” asked Sumner.

Assemblywoman Stephanie Nowers also objected to Sumner’s original motion to tie the action to a separate agenda item.

“I have concerns as to why it’s being postponed in light of the previous attempt to combine it to an unrelated piece of legislation. I think it’s very important that this goes forward and this goes forward in a timely manner tonight,” said Deputy Mayor Tam Boeve.

Just before the vote on Sumner’s motion to postpone AM 21-003 for two weeks, Assemblyman George McKee took a call on his cell phone and left his seat at the dias. When the initial tally was taken, the vote was tied 3-3 with Assemblymen Sumner, Mokie Tew and Rob Yundt voting in favor. Assemblyman Tim Hale, Nowers and Deputy Mayor Boeve voted against. As McKee returned to the dias to vote, Halter asked if he knew what he was voting on before accepting his deciding ‘yes’ vote that ultimately postponed the measure until the Jan. 19 meeting.

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