WASILLA — Before the city of Wasilla rolled out Phase 4 of their CARES Act small business grants, Councilman Stu Graham had one last act as a member of the Wasilla City council.
Deputy Mayor Glenda Ledford and former councilman Doug Holler will compete in a mayoral runoff election on Oct. 27. Graham also ran for mayor but did not receive enough votes to be one of the top two candidates entered in the runoff. After two terms as a council member, Graham has termed out, but hoped to provide more CARES act funds to be made available to Wasilla residents on Monday.
“Initially when we looked at this we said we’re going to put $7.7 million in the hands of businesses in Wasilla,” said Graham. “The concern that the council initially had and the administration initially had about not having money available because the larger businesses, even though they’re still small businesses, would suck up all the money has not proven to be valid.”
As the council began discussion Resolution 20-35 to begin Phase 4, Graham offered three amendments to the resolution. The first of Graham’s amendments would remove the restriction for national chain businesses. Wasilla Finance Director Joan Miller said that only one application had been denied due to the national chain restriction.
“We’re accepting tax payments from out of state but we’re not allowing them to participate in a program whereby business impacts could be lessened. I find that odd,” said Graham.
Graham’s first amendment failed 3-2 with Graham and Councilman James Harvey voting in support. Graham’s second amendment moved to remove the $50,000 cap of funds awarded to local businesses.
“If we do end up sending some money back that’s not great, it’s okay, but if we do have businesses that have experienced harm then we need to take care of those businesses,” said Graham.
The removal of the cap would not allow for local businesses to request unlimited funds, and must still apply in the bracket they fall under.
“I think what Mr. Graham is doing is very prudent and I think what we’re all trying to do is be the most responsible we can possible and follow the guidelines but also find ways to spend this money and again if we give money back, all the better,” said Councilman Tim Burney.
Graham’s second amendment passed 4-1 with only Ledford voting against. Graham also offered a third amendment that would have doubled the amount payable to local businesses which also failed. The amendment made to remove the $50,000 cap provided a substantial change to the resolution and it will return to the council at the October 26 meeting with the changes made.
City of Wasilla residents planning to vote in the mayoral runoff can do so in a variety of ways. Wasilla City Clerk Jamie Newman said that early in person voting begins Oct. 19 and runs through Oct. 26. Absentee by mail applications are due Oct. 20. Voters who cast their ballots at the City Hall precinct will not have a change but voters who previously voted at the Wasilla Seniors Center and cast their ballot at the Wasilla Library will now vote at Wasilla Middle School.
Canvass Board Chair Angela Long provided an update on why ballots were rejected by the canvass board. Of the 143 absentee by mail ballots returned, only three were rejected. One of the ballots was not turned in by 8 p.m. on election night and two were rejected because they live outside city limits. Of the early poll questioned ballots, 14 of 36 were discarded. Of those 14, 12 were not registered to vote 30 days prior to the election and two were rejected as an attempt to vote more than once. Of the two special needs poll ballots, one was rejected due to insufficient witness signature.
“The process worked really well. We were able to get through quite a number of ballots and the new scanning equipment that we’re using now for voting, there’s a little bit of a learning curve but it’s a pretty impressive machine because of the information that it captures and really all I can say is that the election at the city of Wasilla ran pretty much I think like anybody would hope an election would follow as far as an example,” said Long.
Members of the council used their comments to congratulate Graham on his service to Wasilla on the council for the last six years.
“Thanks to the outgoing council and mayor,” said Tim Johnson who won Council seat C. “I know that you guys have spent an awful lot of time and personal effort in making this community the great community that it is.”
Council members praised Graham for his constant professionalism and preparedness for council meetings.
“You have been an asset to the city and for that I’ll always be grateful because I live here and I think we all respect somebody that gives their time their effort to make this city a wonderful place to live and I think you’ve done that,” said Ledford.
Mayor Bert Cottle’s last meeting as Mayor will be October 26.
“I appreciate your indulgence over the years and I can assure you that my speaking comes from passion. I have a passion for this city, I have a passion for the residents, I have a passion for the businesses, I have a passion for our quality of life here,” said Graham. “I thank you all for indulging me in sharing that passion and being able to do something about it.”