It’s been a while and much has changed since I last sent out an email. We are still gathering signatures but for the most part the petition is complete and we are moving forward.  I applaud the folks that have helped out to make this a reality.

Here are the facts and they keep piling up.

  1. The property taxes as they are will pay for a city and the benefits that come with having our own say, being our own city
  2. Unless we become a city we will be subject to the planning of the borough and the state.  This has huge impacts on the roads to and from Big Lake.
  3. The railroad will be constructed and most will be done this summer
  4. The plan continues to be that the highway comes through Big Lake center.  I am so grateful for the work the council has done regarding the Community Impact Assessment but we need to become a powerful voice to make sure the findings are heard.
  5. The Knik tribal Council has asked to annex the area from Houston (Millers reach towards Horseshoe Lake).  Houston has not decided what it will do but it is an option, because we are not a city.
  6. Even though we have written letters, called our legislators, and followed the public comment, the rail route is in our backyard, and the four lanes versus five lane suicide lane is still an issue.

But in reality I understand the worry.  Yes taxes could go up, yes people have talked about a sales tax to help pay for a police force.  And yes you could have bad leadership.  But in all of these issues there is one thing you have, as residents, to defend your community.  As residents you will be able to vote for leadership, taxes will go up or down based on your vote, and your input will be needed to make decisions.  The only thing that can cause the city to fail or be a burden is a lack of involvement.

I ask and implore you to sign the petition.  It is time for Big Lake to choose its own course.  You can sign the petition and vote no to the city, but your signature gives us all the right to make that decision.

Forward this to your friends, preferably voters in Big Lake.

Thank you,

Seth Kelley

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Revenue Sharing and Big Lake City

On January 9, 2013 at the annual Big Lake Community Council meeting, we heard from Representative Mark Neuman.  During the evening Rep. Neuman shared his views on Big Lake becoming a more established City.  Rep. Neuman’s insight was well received by all and the Council appreciated his continued dedication to this matter. Representative Neuman’s main concern regarding revenue sharing is an excellent point and is exactly why the Big Lake City organization committee has not used revenue sharing as part of the proposed Big Lake City’s budget.

A few of the issues discussed that would benefit from further discussion and / or clarification are:

1.       Uncertainty and concern regarding funds being cut:  We understand the concern but this is the reason we have stayed away from accepting any state funding in our proposal.  If Big Lake cannot afford a city on its own we would not pursue this endeavor.  

2.       “Revenue Sharing” are funds provided by the State of Alaska from funds generated by Oil Revenue. As a kudos to Rep. Neuman he has been consistently asking and pushing the state to cut back on its expenditures regarding the oil revenue and has been committed to the idea of a balanced budget.  Again this is the reason we have stayed clear of this funding.  

3.       The current proposal for a Big Lake City Council does not  plan to  participate in the Revenue Sharing funds that are allocated in the State.  The budget also does not include any grants or outside funding.  At this time, we anticipate receiving $75,000.00 in new City funds which are guaranteed in state regulation.

4.       Funds for Incorporating are currently being generated from property tax rates.  The Matanuska-Susitna Borough determines the tax rates increases. As voters you have absolutely no say in whether your property taxes go up or come down.

5.       Local control of funding within the City of Big Lake will hopefully mitigate the need for Borough or State approval for funds used within the City.

Please review our budget and see for yourself, how much money it will cost, where the money will come from and whether it is sustainable.

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Thank YOU

Years ago I started doing a small annual tradition for work.  I send out letters to people I really want to thank, I keep the list very small to make me think deeply about who should get one.  It makes me take stock in what I am appreciative of.

Ten Thank yous from me to Big Lake!!!

Who else deserves a big pat on the back?

  1. First I want to thank the Shilanski’s, not many people understand the amount of work they have done for this community.  I know there are folks who have given years upon years to Big lake, but in 2012 this couple was everywhere doing everything.  Your leadership on the chamber and your guidance in the council are very much appreciated.
  2. Thank you Bill Kramer, while the whole council has been an incredible team of leaders it takes a strong leader such as yourself to pull it all together.  The community needs to be very thankful for the work you have done, and the way you have engaged all possible resources for the betterment of Big Lake.
  3. Thank you Ina Mueller, Big Lake News, North Shore Entertainment and events like Winterfest and triathlon would not have been as successful as they were if not for you.  Thank you, you have truly made this community full of entertainment.
  4. Thank You Ken Walch.  An expert in everything and always willing to help.  One of the most humble men I have had the chance to meet.
  5. Thank you Jay Nolfi.  For Everything
  6. On behalf of my children and the children of Big Lake thank you Bill Haller.  Again volunteer leadership is incredibly productive.  I am in awe of the work you have done for the youth in our community.  Seriously the recreation center is incredible and it is still getting better, how do you do it?  We are so lucky to have the Lions here in our community and they are lucky to have you.
  7. On behalf of anyone who rides in Big Lake Thank you Mayfields for your dedication to our trails and way of life.
  8. TundraBen, I want to thank you for your wit and your emails.  With the crime rates rising your constant information helped find criminals and get stolen items back.  Keep it up!
  9. A big thank you to Cindy Bettine, while she is not on the assembly her guidance and her persistence have continued to help our community.                                                     9b.  Darwin Fisher, this is the man behind protecting Big Lake from Felony Flats. When Big Lake needed someone to stand up and push a land use issue, he did it. His efforts took everyone by surprise and caused the Assembly to step back and rethink its plans.
  10. Do you recycle?  Sammy Taylor should be thanked by the whole community.  She had a vision of creating a recycling service,  she stayed with it and with hard work, collaboration and a strong belief she created a model program for the borough.  Again volunteer leadership leads the way.

Who else deserves a big pat on the back?

 

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Clarification of Charter Schools

We misspoke in an earlier email.  Carol Kane has provided some clarification. 

In response to the statement regarding pursue charter schools being part what the city should do, governance of all Alaska Schools is part of State Statue

Title 14. EDUCATION, LIBRARIES, AND MUSEUMS

Chapter 14.03 PUBLIC SCHOOLS GENERALLY

Article 01 . GENERAL PROVISIONS

Sec. 14.03.010. Establishment of school system.
This statue clearly states the state and local school districts have public school governance.
A city does not have governance nor include pursuing charter schools as indicated in the current language posted:

1.  request better schools, or pursue charter schools

Replace with: 
1.  Advocate on-going equal access and expectations for every child enrolled in public schools -
Reference

Title 14. EDUCATION, LIBRARIES, AND MUSEUMS

Chapter 14.03 PUBLIC SCHOOLS GENERALLY

Article 01 . GENERAL PROVISIONS

Sec. 14.03.010. Establishment of school system.

 Insert a note stating this had been restated to reflect compliance with current state statute – Title 14. Education, Libraries and Museums.

 State and local school board governance, not city governance.

 I totally support any individual having school choice and belief about what is in his/her child’s best interest. That said, this should not be embedded in what we are trying to do to promote Big Lake becoming a second class city.  I know from my past experience about Charter Schools and numerous hours at school board meetings this can be a hotly contested matter.

 Carol

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The Shilanski’s opinion

Why Big Lake Must become an Incorporated City

I am aware that incorporating has been tried and failed before but this is the time to take control of our future and stop paying Palmer to make poor decisions for us.

As many before us, my wife Rosa and I (Floyd) enjoyed recreating on Big Lake for years.  In fact most of our children had parties at the Old Sail and Fun over on North Shore never thinking that we would become commuters.

After we built our home and decided to leave the Big City we kept our heads down and to ourselves.  However we never knew what was going on.  When we did find out what was going on around Big Lake we decided to become involved, first with our Church then the Community Council and Chamber of Commerce (Rosa currently serves as Chamber President).

This came about via the First Friday Supper club several years ago at Settlers Bay.   As we met more of our neighbors we kind of got the “Lay of the Lake” (Thank you Ina Scott and Cindy B).

When Rosa and I attended our very first meeting about the railroad they asked for public input, we felt the decision had already been made where the route was going (and it was).

When we listened to the Water Quality issues it was clear that Big Lake was going to become impaired. Now we have the Port, the prison, and a lot of folks are making decisions about Big Lake that do not even live here at least full time.

These are just a few of the reasons the Citizens of Big Lake should have a seat at the table. 

But none as obvious as last Thursday’s RSA (Road Service Area) Board meeting.   This volunteer board repeatedly stated they don’t do numbers just dirt, but then went on to move $475,000 to a Public Works Budget.  All of this was done without listening to public comment. 

I wonder if the citizens of Big Lake know that somewhere between 20-39% of our RSA taxes are not being spent in the Big Lake (closer to 39%).   How do they feel about those funds going to Palmer and not Big Lake?

Not enough Law enforcement.

Where is our say in the way our tax dollars are spent? Taxation without representation?

Yes, we do have an elected official that lives in the Knik area and he does seem responsive to our needs but we are currently a small population of his responsibility.

Is the Community of Big Lake aware a School Bond proposal was passed and our school was supposed to get a face lift and some long overdue work?   We got several ADA parking slots and little else.  But what about the school wing that has asbestos?

 Becoming a city does not improve this but I have to think we could make a bit more noise and perhaps be taken seriously!

Floyd and Rosa

Posted in Big Lake Opinions | 2 Comments

Big Lake City 101: Administrative Costs

I want to post these small specific pieces of information as a way to go a little deeper about what is contained on this website. The first subject we will tackle is…

Administrative Staff: This question comes up a lot in regards to the number and pay of staff actually working for the city. To start, the petitioner is planning on keeping the number staff very low, at this point it is presented as two staff and one contractor working for Big Lake City (The elected city council may differ on their opinion on staffing levels).  I the petition the city administration includes a City Manager, City Clerk, and a contracted Accountant/ Treasurer. That’s it.

City Manager: (The voters will have to choose) but as the petitioner the format is a strong manager form of government.  The petittion goes in this direction so that the residents of this city can ensure a person with proper qualifications is in charge of the day-to-day business of the city. Big Lake City will have a mayor but he/she will set agendas and facilitate the meetings. This plan to have a manager style government has been proven to bring more stability to the government and has been shown to decrease recalls. To illustrate this further, lets look at the role of the mayor. Our mayor will be part-time at best. He or she may be elected because of their ideas or even their connections with the city. That may not mean they are skilled at running finances, grant writing, management or state and borough government structure. The city council would hire and hold accountable the City Manager.

City Clerk: When I first started working as a teacher I was given some great advice. “Become friends with two individuals if you want to be successful: The head secretary, and the janitor.” These are the roles that keep things running smooth and organized, and they are crucial. While the City manager sits atop the organization chart the clerk is the one who interacts day-to-day with the residents, the clerk organizes paperwork, files complaints, listens to concerns and generally maintains the city offices. Much like the incredibly important school support staff this person is crucial to a well run city.

Accountant/ treasurer: We are seeking a contractor to accomplish these tasks. It is important to note that the borough collects all of our taxes for us. The borough will then process our portion (3 mil rate) and give us our funds. The accountant/ treasurer is responsible for the financial operations of our City. These tasks include processing payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable, and management of contracts.

Contract and City Council Members: In the event that we cannot do something in-house, either because of lack of expertise or time we will look first to contract the work out.  This will mean the city council will pay a specific price for the completion of a task.  It also eliminates the need for costs like health insurance, workers comp, etc.  It is a very cost-effective and efficient way to complete tasks. 

The other cost is the amount a city council member gets paid per meeting.  The State of Alaska has expressed their concern that the petition would receive a passing grade if we didn’t have compensation for council members.   I would like to suggest to our first council members that they volunteer their time and return the council pay to the treasury.

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The Four R’s

Notes from the Meeting

We have begun the second phase of the incorporation process. This includes writing the platform that our city will be built upon. As an update we will be meeting the fourth Thursday of every month (6:30 PM) at Big Lake Family Restaurant, but if you cannot make it to that meeting please feel free to send me your comments, questions or general thoughts.

The main points we have held since early in this process include the four R’s.

  • Recreation- preserves our trails and way of life
  • Raising Children- create a community that is exceptional for raising children
  • Retirement- enhance our community to meet the needs of retirees
  • Running a Business- create a positive environment for all business owners and entrepreneurs

Beyond the 4 R’s, we are starting to define what a city should and should not do. I attached the notes from that meeting. Please read, add feedback, agree and disagree.

Preliminary ideas for the mission include:
Clean, Safe, Attract Businesses, Responsible Tax Structure, Finding resources, Enhance Infrastructure, Advocacy for school and youth services, creating a livable city, and bringing needed amenities to Big Lake.

What a city should do?

  • City government should pursue the maintenance of minimal government as one of its key functions.
  • Manage Road and other contracts
  • Use our position as a city to :
  1. request better schools, or pursue charter schools
  2. Push for development of utilities (natural gas access, MTA high speed internet)
  3. Development that does not impede on residential property
  4. Better safety and services

What a city should not do?

  • Social Services. The city should serve as an advocate and create an environment that supports social service groups and volunteers, not pay for the services themselves.
  • Micromanage land use, a city should not be involved in this!!!!

Taxes:

  • Decisions on any increase in city taxes to be determined by the people.
  • Police service will be pursued if property tax revenue increase because land value increases

 

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Time For Feedback

Please take 3-4 minutes and fill out this survey. Your feedback is valuable, just a couple of questions on your end gives us a tremendous amount of answers on ours.

Thanks,

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

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Trucks and kids don’t mix

Scott & Ina Mueller have been property owners on Big Beaver Lake and West Papoose for over 30 years. Every memory our children have of major family events is centered around the “family cabin” on Big Beaver. After losing the original structure in the Miller’s Reach Fire we rebuilt along with the rest of the community and in fall of 2010 we had the opportunity to realize a 30 year dream and move to Big Lake full time.

Although we have been full-time residents for just a couple years, we have been involved with the community for many years. Ina runs a small business based in Big Lake, served on the Comprehensive Plan Committee; and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce and Community Council; Scott is Vice President of Big Lake Trails.

The drastic changes that have taken place in this community over the last few years give us cause for concern. There is nothing wrong with development, it is a fact of life and needed for growth. However, development needs to come without causing detriment to the reasons people want to live in Big Lake! We want our grandson to be able to jump on the four-wheeler and run up to the grocery store for Grandma without being worried that a semi-truck barreling down Big Lake Road will cross his path; we know that industrial corporations are good for the economy and need places to expand and have warehouse facilities; but does that warehouse facility need to be right next to residential housing, the community grocery store, library or elementary school – NO. With the development of Port McKenzie, the Rail Spur and the eventuality of the Bridge – Big Lake is in the direct path of change whether we want it or not. Since this change is inevitable, we feel it is important to be on the controlling side of that change, not the reactionary side.

This is why we strongly support Big Lake’s petition to incorporate. Although this will create a new layer of government, this “new layer” will give us a seat at the table.  It will also give us a more powerful say in what the Borough wants to do in Big Lake. Without having the ‘muscle’ of being an Incorporated City we do not have a “seat at the table” or a say in how our future will unfold!

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Bill and Carol Kane share their story

Support for Big Lake becoming a Second-Class City…Bill and Carol Kane

Bill and I began our part time residency in 1987 as weekenders at our cabin on the north shore of Big Lake. We enjoyed the recreational opportunities – water-skiing, riding watercraft, winter fun on snow machines, getting together with family, meeting new friends, owning our houseboat rental business, and the over all quality of life.  We found more often than not, we wanted to continue to stay at the cabin throughout the year for longer periods of time to fully enjoy the life style we began to value. We were fortunate to build our home in 2001 and fulfilled our dream to become full time residents on Big Lake.

Since 1987, we have been involved in the Big Lake Chamber, Big Lake Community Council, served on numerous community committees, helped with community events, and active in the initial years of Houston Jr./Sr. High School.

To ensure that we, as current property owners and future property owners, maintain our quality of life and decide our own destiny, having Big Lake become a Second–Class City is essential to include but not limited to the following reasons:

•     Big Lake property owners who are registered voters, vote to determine the Big Lake’s future,

•     Big Lake property taxes should be dedicated for the infrastructure of Big Lake,

•     Big Lake’s citizens have a “voice” to elect officials, who directly represent Big Lake,

•     Big Lake will have better representation to determine economic project development.

Those of us who have been actively working on the Big Lake Second – Class City petition want:

•     all interested individuals to ask questions then we will seek the answers and respond,

•     ensure we are reaching out to current property owners as well as future property owners, who may now be weekenders but eventually will become full time residents,

•     hear what the collective “vision” is for Big Lake, and

•     have on-going communication throughout this process.

To ensure the purpose of the petition is actualized, the process will require a VOTE of Big Lake’s registered voters to provide a proactive and efficient approach to the decision- making process.

Big Lake becoming a Second-Class City is the right thing to do for the right reason – the future of Big Lake is only ours to decide!

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