April 5, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 14

City Council report: City prepares to file again on redistricting

Petersburg will be ready once again to go to court against the Alaska Redistricting Board in order to stay in the district with Sitka, the City Council decided during a regular meeting Monday.

Orin Pierson
Dave Berg and Rodney Anderson were presented with Al Dwyer’s Mayor’s Award by Cindi Lagoudakis during Friday night’s Art’s Council concert, in recognition of their tireless volunteering efforts providing sound and lighting support for performances of all kinds in Wright Auditorium.

The council opposes the plan because they say it reduces, disproportionately the representation of Petersburg voters in the House and Senate District. Also, the district Petersburg would be in with Juneau under the new plan is not compact enough to be lawful under the state constitution.

The city last year filed a suit in Superior Court and lost. But the State Supreme Court ordered the board to take another look at its plan based on other complaints.

The board on March 31, adopted an Amended Proclamation Plan in concept with all district boundaries being subject to technical changes pending staff and legal review. The plan has taken into consideration complaints from Fairbanks, but the board did not make any changes to Southeast Alaska districts.

The deadline for further comment of the board's decision was on Monday. Over the weekend, the city clerk submitted a letter to the board informing them of Petersburg's opposition to the plan.

Petersburg city attorney Thomas F. Klinkner, who joined the city council meeting via phone, said “The city can bring another claim, although we will be raising many of the same issues.”

Klinkner said that if the council wanted to pursue legal action, it needed to act quickly.

“It's quite likely the court will impose a schedule because they would want to get the whole thing resolved by the Primary Election in June. We may have to react quickly after the final plan is issued on Thursday,” Klinkner said.

“In my opinion it's worth the money to appeal it. Things are transpiring here. The Supreme Court told the redistricting board to re-draw their old plans … not just for Fairbanks, [but] the entire plan,” said Councilman Mark Jensen, who also joined the meeting by phone.

Councilman Rick Braun agreed by stating, “It would be pointless to head down this road and not go all the way.”

According to Klinkner, a new lawsuit would cost the city more than $10,000, but less than $20,000, in attorney's fees on a new complaint.

The council voted to allow City Manager Steve Giesbrecht to spend up to $20,000 in legal fees if a new suit is filed. The city spent $30,000 in its case a year ago.

The board will meet via teleconference today at 10 a.m., to formally adopt the Proclamation of Redistricting. The public may listen to the teleconference by calling 1-855-463-5009, or online at www.aklegislature.tv.

Also on Monday the City Council unanimously voted to authorize Alaska Power & Telephone to install a new E911 dispatch system. The new system would replace the current 911 dispatch call system and allows dispatchers know the address of the caller, but with a new cell tower, dispatchers would be able to locate a caller on a cell phone.

Don Koenigs asked what other fees would be involved if the police department moved sometime in the future.

The system will have two servers, one will be at the P.P.D. And the other will be at the new Fire House, Chief Jim Agner said.

Giesbrecht said the city would ask for clarification in the contract if the police department moves.

The approved bid from AP&T is for $208,554.

The council also passed a resolution to amend the FY 2011/12 to budget to provide $25,500 in Property Development Fund money to Mountain View Manor for a new paging system.

While councilman Koenigs agreed the new paging system was necessary to replace the 9-year-old, out-dated system, he pointed out that adding to the supplemental budget was becoming a habit.

“I have difficulty with that on a constant basis, why we're not living within our means,” Koenigs said. “This looks like to me it’s just acquiring additional equipment,” he added.

According to Giesbrecht, this was one of the Capital projects the council had on a priority list, but it did not look like it was going to be funded by the governor or the state legislature. Giesbrecht added that the project fit within the guidelines of the PDF.

The council approved the resolution.

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