Borough elections this year ushered in three new assembly members and, with change, there comes some growing pains. Kyle Crow and Dennis Symmons are serving on the assembly for the first time, Mel Stephens returns after a history of serving, and each contributes a fresh perspective this year.
During the last few borough regular meetings and work sessions, the assembly has discussed several possible areas of improvement in the borough, like the equipment procurement process. The assembly again brought up some issues it had with borough staff and the existing system at its regular meeting last Thursday.
The assembly reviewed an ordinance to change code which would define what applies as a recreational vehicle, clarify what zoning districts RV parks can be located in, and permit people to live in an RV for a period of time while constructing a permanent residence. Borough Manager Bud Cassidy referred back to a prior conversation on the ordinance.
“One of the questions that came up during the work session was the fact that we should have run this through the attorney. We did that. The attorney did email me back and basically said that, while he notes some redundancies within the ordinance, he believes they provide notice of requirements and therefore acceptable.”
Cassidy also quoted an improvement the attorney suggested from the email.
Assemblyman Mel Stephens took issue with the process of amending code in this case. He said he had asked Cassidy at the last work session whether he had run the ordinance by the borough attorney.
“I take it from Bud’s comment tonight that the answer at that time should have been no, rather than I don’t know or talking around it. So, the answer tonight is oh, but by now, it’s been run by the attorney, he sees some things he thinks are a little or redundant or whatever, but it’s okay, and Bud is in possession or an email not shared with us which says that.”
Stephens said he doesn’t think that is the way one should act when amending code to the degree that the ordinance does. He suggested that the code change should get a thorough review from the attorney.
The assembly discussed postponing the decision on the ordinance until the next regular meeting, and Assemblyman Dan Rohrer asked those in favor of postponement what they hoped to see accomplished before the next review of the ordinance. That way, staff and assembly members could be clear on what further action they need to take.
Assemblyman Frank Peterson said he has similar concerns.
“I just want to make sure, and I’ve said it in the past, instead of just saying you did this poorly, say I want you to do this, this and this. We just need to be clear with staff what we expect of them by the next meeting. And then I would question whether or not there is an urgency. I mean, we’re in the dead of winter. Do we have people that are violating the code right now or the code, and are we just not enforcing it?”
Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner shared what she would like to happen before the next regular meeting when the assembly votes on the ordinance.
“I would expect the communication from the lawyer to be distributed to the assembly and, I guess as far as giving a little bit further direction to apply in other circumstances, I guess it’s my opinion if someone on the assembly does ask for legal review of something, that when the legal review comes back, it just gets forwarded so that the assembly can take a look at it.”
The assembly agreed to postpone the ordinance.
Mayor Jerrol Friend spoke about the new dynamic between the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and borough staff, and the comments the assembly has made about changes to protocol. He stressed the importance of communication and giving staff clear direction.
“Be sure staff understands this stuff, what we’re asking [from] them. They all work hard, they’ve probably got more stuff than they should be doing on here. So, I just want to caution everybody that staff’s trying the best they’re doing and we need to kinda be behind them and help them as much as we can. We’ve got some great people working in here. It’s a new assembly, it’s a new makeup, some of the requests that we’re asking for [are] a little bit different than they’ve been used to.”
There is an assembly work session scheduled for December 29 and a joint assembly and Kodiak City Council work session set for January 7.