Dillingham gets approval for election on annexation
April 27th, 2011 | Margaret Bauman
City of Dillingham officials have received approval from the state's Local Boundary Commission to hold an election to determine whether residents want to annex the waters of the Nushagak fishing district, allowing the city to impose a 2.5 percent raw fish tax.
"Annexation is needed for revenues," said acting city manager Don Moore. "The city needs to broaden its revenue base. We are taxed to the max. The city council's philosophy is to have a broad tax base and keep the rats down."
Moore confirmed today that the Local Boundary Commission granted approval for such an election very early this morning, at the tail end of a lengthy public hearing at Dillingham's middle school multi-purpose room.
It was a long meeting," Moore said. "People had some very strongly held opinions that they expressed forthrightly, but they dealt with each other with courtesy and respect."
Opinions among about 100 people at the public hearing were split about 50-50 for and against annexation, he said.
While Local Boundary Commission staff approved the city's petition to annex the Nushagak commercial salmon district waters and Wood River sockeye salmon special harvest areas waters - some 396 square miles of water and 3 square miles of land contained in small islands - they added an amendment to the proposal. The amendment directed the city to attempt to meet with several specific local governments and tribal organizations to discuss the annexation issue and how the taxes collected would be used. The city would then have to deliver a report on those meetings by Nov. 30 to the Local Boundary Commission.
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, the election must also be approved by the Department of Justice, so it is unrealistic to think such an election could take place in October, said Brooks Chandler, the city's attorney.
Given Justice Department approval, plus approval by Dillingham residents at an election date still to be announced, the fish tax could be imposed at the start of the 2012 fishing season, Moore said.
Margaret Bauman can be reached at email@example.com, or by phone at 907-348-2438.