Minutes of the Regular Meeting

Denali Borough Assembly

Tri-Valley Community Center

December 11, 2002


CALL TO ORDER    Presiding Officer Jim Caswell called the regular meeting to order at 7:02 pm.


PUBLIC                      CASWELL said a request has been made to allow for public

COMMENTS             comments before the assembly appoints the two open assembly seats.  Seeing no objection from the Assembly, CASWELL asked for public comments.


Mr. Joe Fields, representing Kantishna Holdings, Inc., encouraged the introduction of Ordinance #1 and begin the public process concerning this issue.  He said if the Assembly introduces this ordinance the public would have a chance to become more knowledgeable of the proposed project, and provide input concerning the project.  


ROLL CALL               Assembly members present were: Jim Caswell, Gerald Pollock, Sid Michaels, Carol Shields, Baxter Mercer, Bob Shelton, David Evans and Mayor Talerico.


1.)  Appoint Assembly Seat G.


MICHAELS suggested that we do this by secret ballot.  He stated that we did do this when we appointed Mayor Gonzales.  He quoted the North Star Borough Code and the Northwest Arctic Borough Code  which both allow for a secret ballot to appoint a vacant assembly seat.


MICHAELS MOVED that the vote to appoint both Assembly Seats D and G be taken by secret ballot.  MERCER seconded.


CASWELL asked for any comments by the Assembly.  Seeing none he called for the vote.


The roll call VOTE was 3 to 4, with POLLOCK, EVANS, SHELTON, and MERCER opposed, and MICHAELS, SHIELDS, AND CASWELL in favor.  The motion failed. 


MICHAELS asked for the names of the people that applied for Assembly Seat G.  Mayor Talerico said Mr. Jerry Mueller and Mr. Neal Laugman had applied.


Mayor Talerico said there was quite a bit of confusion pertaining to the selection process.  The Mayor read from the Denali Borough Code of Ordinances which states” the Mayor shall select from the applicants one person and present this person to the assembly for approval.  If the Assembly fails to approve this person the Mayor shall select another.  This process shall continue until an applicant is approved.” 


Mayor Talerico said he has received a lot of comments on this issue. He said while he is the Mayor he has a policy that he firmly believes in.  He said we need to make sure that the minority is heard.  He said that is vital to the operation of our government, but we also need to make sure that the majority prevails.  He said in his opinion, and relying on his contact with people, he would like all of his appointments to mirror an election process.  Mayor Talerico put forth Mr. Jerry Mueller for Assembly Seat G.


MICHAELS MOVED to confirm Mr. Mueller to Assembly Seat  G, and SHIELDS seconded.  The roll call VOTE was 3-4 with EVANS, POLLOCK, MERCER, and SHELTON opposed, and MICHAELS, CASWELL, and SHIELDS in favor.  The motion failed.


Mayor Talerico put forth Mr. Neal Laugman for Assembly Seat G.  MERCER MOVED to confirm the nomination, and EVANS seconded.  The roll call VOTE was 5 to 2, with CASWELL and MICHAELS opposed.  Mr. Laugman was confirmed to Assembly Seat G.


                                    2.)  Appoint Assembly Seat D.


                                    MICHAELS asked who applied for Assembly Seat D.  Mayor

Talerico said Ms. Teresa Hall and Mr. Dave Braun had both



Mayor Talerico put forth Ms. Teresa Hall for Assembly Seat D.  

He said the exact same thing he had stated earlier pertaining to Assembly Seat G applies.


MICHAELS MOVED to approve Ms.Teresa Hall for Assembly Seat D, and MERCER seconded.   The roll call VOTE was 4-3, with MICHAELS, CASWELL, SHIELDS, and MERCER in favor, and POLLOCK, EVANS, and SHELTON opposed.


                                    3.)  Oath of Office for the new Assembly Members.


Mayor Talerico administered the oath of office to the new assembly members. 


                                    4.)  Selection of Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer.


                                    MICHAELS nominated CASWELL, and SHIELDS



                                    LAUGMAN nominated MERCER, and MERCER declined.


                                    EVANS nominated POLLOCK, and LAUGMAN seconded.


                                    MICHAELS spoke in favor of utilizing the secret ballot method

of voting for a presiding officer.  He said it’s allowable method and has been used in the past. 


                                    LAUGMAN said he remembers this issue being brought up

before in 1996.  EVANS was also in opposition to the use of

that method.  MICHAELS said there is a letter from the

Borough Attorney on the table today addressing this issue.


The Clerk said this has been the normal practice of the

Assembly and according to the Borough Attorney, it does not violate the Open Meetings Act.  She said the decision is up to the Assembly.


MICHAELS MOVED that the secret ballot method be utilized, and MERCER seconded.  The vote was 6-3 with EVANS, LAUGMAN, and SHELTON opposed, and MICHAELS, CASWELL, POLLOCK, MERCER, SHIELDS, and HALL in favor.  The motion passed.


The secret ballot method was used, and CASWELL was selected Presiding Officer.


CASWELL asked for nominations for Deputy Presiding Officer.


SHIELDS nominated HALL.




The secret ballot method was used, and POLLOCK was selected Deputy Presiding Officer.


AGENDA                   MICHAELS MOVED to approve the agenda as presented, and HALL seconded. 


HALL MOVED to amend the agenda by moving item G.) Public Comments to Item C.) 1.  MERCER seconded. 


                     The VOTE on the agenda as amended was unanimous.


PUBLIC                      Healy resident David  Braun asked if there were any minutes of

COMMENTS             previous meetings available.  He said he went to the Borough office to get the minutes of the Canvass meeting, the certification of the election meeting minutes and the minutes of last month’s meeting. 


CASWELL said those minutes would be available during next month’s meeting.


Braun said the public has the right to public information on the public record, and he feels those were crucial meetings.  Braun said in his opinion the Clerk had been remiss in her duty to provide the public record in a timely manner.  


                                    Braun said he would like to reopen the ethical complaint, filed by Mr. Braun that alleges that Mr. Caswell is not a resident of the Borough.  Braun said the complaint, filed in May, states that Mr. Caswell’s APOC lists his home as Anchorage, and the form has said that for two years.  Braun said in 1997 Caswell had two contact phone numbers: one was 683-2226, and the other one was an Anchorage phone number.  Braun said we know that last winter Caswell commuted from Anchorage to his job at Usibelli Coal Mine.  Braun said he told us he buys his fuel on the way back from Anchorage.  He stated that just because you have a residence in this borough does not mean that you are a resident.  Braun said if a person has a home elsewhere and a business in the Borough, then they are not a resident of the Borough.  Braun said his home is where he has his residence.  Braun said Caswell got on this Borough Assembly to keep himself from being taxed or regulated.



CASWELL said the Borough Attorney determined that deciding whether he is a Borough resident or not is up to the Borough Clerk, and she has determined that he is indeed a resident.  CASWELL invited Braun to meet with him outside of a Borough meeting to continue discussing this issue. 


PLANNING                1.)  Selection of Planning Commission Chair and Vice Chair.


                                    Planning Commission Chairman Pro-tem MICHAELS presided

over this section of the agenda.


MERCER nominated MICHAELS, and CASWELL seconded.  MICHAELS said he would rather not be the Planning Commission Chairman.


POLLOCK nominated LAUGMAN, and EVANS seconded.


MICHAELS declined the nomination.


The VOTE was 8 to 1, with LAUGMAN opposed.  LAUGMAN will be the Planning Commission Chairman.


LAUGMAN nominated MICHAELS for Vice Chair, MERCER seconded.


CASWELL nominated HALL, MICHAELS seconded.


MICHAELS declined the nomination. 


The VOTE was 8 to 1, with HALL opposed.  HALL will be the Deputy Planning Commission Chairman.


2.)  Update on DNR’s request to receive a public right-of-way from the borough for two roads in order to legalize access to the Rex Trail.


LAUGMAN asked about the DNR request. 


MICHAELS asked Land Technician Gail Pieknik if we had a response.  Pieknik stated that we are still on hold.


MICHAELS stated that DNR has remote parcels in the Wood River area, and they had come to the Borough in a big rush and asked the Assembly to approve right-of-way access across Borough land


DBSD SUPT.            Denali Borough School District Superintendent Bob Whicker

REPORT                    gave a brief overview of his written report.


                                    Whicker said the Curriculum Committee, headed up by Arlie Swett has been working very hard on the standards based education program.  He said there are twelve people on the committee.


Whicker said the District has a new teacher mentoring program that is going very well.


                                    He said the district is working together with local entities to keep the school/business partnership program going.  He said Steve Castor and the students who are participating in the program would be building two bunkhouses this year.


                                    Whicker said insurance costs continue to negatively impact the District’s budget.  He stated that the District is partially self-insured, and has been experiencing a higher than normal claim rate, meeting the maximums of their individual deductions ($20,000) which they pay out of pocket.  He said they are searching for a remedy to this situation.


                                    Whicker said their audit would be presented during the next Board meeting on December 18th. 


Whicker said the Tri-Valley School Upgrade Project drawings are now bid ready.  He said the pre-bid conference is scheduled for 1/16/03, and the bid opening is scheduled for 1/30/03.  He said they intend to award the bid on February 6, 2003.


Whicker said the Tri-Valley School would be closed to all activites for the summer to accommodate the upgrade project.


LAUGMAN asked if he had any applicants for the vacant School Board seat.  Whicker said no one has turned an application in yet.

EVANS asked what was the magnitude of the insurance cost that they are facing.

Whicker said the cost went from $47,000 to $127,000.  He said that reduced their unreserved funds from $210,000 to $112,000.  He said this most recent increase has not been calculated out yet.  He said they have faired better than some districts across the State.  He said that the Legislature is also looking at this issue as well.


POLLOCK asked if there were many other districts in the State that are up against a funding limit like our district is.  Whicker said they would give the Assembly some information on that issue during the upcoming budget cycle.  He said he knows that some other districts are also up against the cap.  He said those districts are looking at creative ways to use funds, like using funds to pay building insurance.  He said these items do not fall under the cap.


ASSEMBLY               MICHAELS said about two months ago he joined the Anderson 

COMMENTS             Volunteer Fire Department as a volunteer.  He asked if the Fire Department could use some of the junk vehicles at the Borough Landfill for training.


                                    Mayor Talerico said he would look into the liability issue of the idea, and get back to MICHAELS.


                                    MERCER said he made some comments about the placement of the public comments section on the agenda.  He said after doing some research, he determined he was incorrect.


                                    LAUGMAN voiced his disapproval of the intimidating way the agenda is currently written.  He said he would like to see the agenda more user friendly.  He also said he doesn’t like what the agenda says under the public comments section.  He said he thinks that is a violation of our first amendment rights.


                                    SHELTON said he also finds the agenda format a little disturbing too.  He said it’s very important that we recognize that we work for the public.  SHELTON said we have language here that tells the public that they must sign the sign-in sheet. He said maybe it should say we “encourage” them to sign the sign-in sheet instead of telling them they have to sign the sheet.


                                    Discussion followed, and MICHAELS reminded the Assembly that not only do we have a public hearing for specific items, we also have a public comments section under section G of the meeting agenda.


COMMITTEES          1.)  Committee Seat Appointments


                                    Mayor Talerico recommended Rebecca Skrivanek for Finance Committee seat C. MICHAELS MOVED to approve the recommendation, and HALL seconded.  The VOTE was unanimous.


                                    Mayor Talerico recommended John Miner for Land Use Planning Committee seat B.  MICHAELS MOVED to approve the recommendation, and SHIELDS seconded.  The VOTE was unanimous.


                                    Mayor Talerico recommended Linda Buswell for Personnel Committee seat B.  HALL MOVED to approve and LAUGMAN seconded.  The VOTE was unanimous.  


COMMUNICATION   1.)  Borough Auditor Gary Hutchison, presenting the Borough

AND                            Audit for the Fiscal Year 2002.


                                    Gary Hutchison said the audit finds the Borough in good financial shape.  He gave a brief overview of the audit.  Hutchison said the Borough Landfill is still running in the black.  He stated that the permanent fund is still a strong asset for the Borough as there is $1.9 million in that account. 


                                    Hutchison said the NARS grant procedure suggestion are addressed in the management letter.


                                    Minimal discussion followed.


                                    MICHAELS said he would like to congratulate the former Mayor, the current Mayor, and the Assembly because the audit reflects that we are in the black in almost everything.  He said our former Mayor worked very hard getting the Borough Landfill profitable, and we were able to do that without raising taxes. 


                                    2.)  Mr. Jerry Rafson, representing Department of Transportation, regarding the pre-draft of the STIP.  (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.)


                                    Mr. Jerry Rafson and Ms. Judy Chapman representing the Department of Transportation, were in attendance to present the Draft 2004-2006 STIP (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program).  Rafson said the STIP is something that is constantly being updated and amended and developed. 


Rafson highlighted the proposed projects within the Denali Borough.  Rafson encouraged people to fill out a comment sheet tonight, and look them up on the Internet.  He said public comment on the proposed projects ends on January 10, 2003.


                                    EVANS asked Rafson to explain the nomination process for proposed projects.


                                    Rafson said they have specific guidelines and criteria for scoring all the projects that are based on economic development, safety, etc. 


                                    CASWELL asked if, in the Parks Highway Study, DOT is identifying and making arrangements to acquire right-of-ways now while property values are low.


                                    Rafson said that was one of the original ideas addressed in the Study.  Rafson said they are working on that idea within their departments.  He said that idea makes a lot of sense, but this is a very expensive project.


                                    Discussion followed.


ORDINANCES          1.)  An ordinance creating Title IV, Chapter 28 of the Denali Borough Code of Ordinances providing for evaluation and acquisition of economic development land by the Borough.


                                    MICHAELS MOVED to introduce, and CASWELL seconded.


                                    MICHAELS said this proposed ordinance was originally brought forth by Mayor Gonzales.  He said the Transfer of Responsibility (TORA) has been signed and HB244 is in effect.  He said it’s important for the Borough to exercise local control of this project.


                                    Presiding Officer CASWELL relinquished the Chair to Deputy Presiding Officer POLLOCK.


                                    CASWELL spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance.  He said this ordinance follows state law.  He said the main economic engines in the Borough are the Coal Mine, the power plant and the Railroad.   He stated that the gas fields to the west of Nenana look promising, and gas could come to market in 6 years.  He stated that things can change and most of our revenue comes from tourism.   


                                    LAUGMAN said he noticed the incentive credit outlines in section 6.  He asked what basis do we have for establishing this. 


                                    CASWELL said he thought it was important to introduce this ordinance in the form proposed by the former Mayor. 


                                    EVANS asked if HB 244 supercedes this ordinance.   


                                    CASWELL stated that it is a legal question and he did not feel comfortable answering it.


                                    SHELTON said if tourism is our main economic engine here, then tourism is dependent upon wilderness, and the idea of putting a railroad through that land does not sit well with him.  He said he does not see how putting a hotel in Kantishna will be of economic benefit to the “tourism economic engine”.   


                                    EVANS questioned if we are doing the right thing.  He stated that we might be setting up an exclusive right-of-way that no one else can use.


                                    CASWELL said all of these issues need to be discussed throughout this whole process.


LAUGMAN spoke in favor of discussing this, but not under the guise of an ordinance like this.  He said he tried to put this issue on the ballot as a proposition but the Code does not allow that type of question as a ballot measure. 


                                    MICHAELS again emphasized the fact that this puts the Borough in the driver seat for this project.  MICHAELS spoke in favor of introducing this ordinance.   


                                    CASWELL said if we do not want this project, and return the project to the State someone else will take over the project, and the Legislature will not look kindly upon the Borough if that happens.


                                    MERCER spoke in favor of introducing this proposed ordinance.


                                    The roll call VOTE was 6-3 with LAUGMAN, EVANS, and SHELTON opposed, and MICHAELS, CASWELL, POLLOCK, SHIELDS, MERCER, and HALL in favor.  This will be Ordinance 02-11.


                                    Presiding Officer CASWELL resumed the meeting.


2.) An ordinance amending the procedure for filling a vacancy on the Borough Assembly.


MICHAELS said after doing some research he couldn’t find in any other places that the Mayor has any involvement in filling a vacant Assembly seat.


MICHAELS MOVED to introduce and MERCER seconded. 


The roll call VOTE was 5-4 with EVANS, SHELTON, POLLOCK, and LAUGMAN opposed, and MICHAELS, CASWELL, SHIELDS, MERCER, and HALL in favor.  This will be Ordinance 02-12.


RESOLUTIONS        1.)  A resolution thanking Mr. Dave Talerico for his year of service on the Denali Borough Assembly.


                                    MICHAELS MOVED to adopt HALL seconded.  The roll call VOTE was unanimous.  This will be Resolution 02-17.


                                    2.)  A resolution thanking Mr. John C. Gonzales for his years of service as the Denali Borough Mayor.


                                    MICHAELS MOVED to adopt and HALL seconded.  The roll call VOTE was unanimous.  This will be Resolution 02-18.


                                    3.)  A resolution thanking Ms. Teresa Hall for her years of service on the Denali Borough Assembly.


                                    The Assembly did not address this resolution because HALL was appointed to Assembly Seat D earlier in the meeting.


OTHER                       1.)  Approval of the Borough Audit for Fiscal Year 2002.


MICHAELS MOVED to approve the audit, and HALL seconded. The roll call VOTE was unanimous.


2.) Update on the TORA Agreement regarding the Project Coordinator position.


MERCER MOVED to suspend the rules and set the time for adjournment at 9:30.  HALL seconded.  The VOTE was unanimous.


Department of Transportation (DOT) Representative Jerry Rafson said the Federal Government earmarked a special appropriation for the North Denali Access Project.  He said two years ago the legislature appropriated the necessary matching funds for the project.  Rafson said the TORA had been signed and Mayor Gonzales was working with DOT on this project.  He said the Borough has hired a part-time staff person to handle this grant. 


CASWELL said the Project Coordinator was John Gonzales and he picked the Alaska Transportation Consultants to help with this project. He suggested that this issue be brought up during the next Assembly work session.


Rafson said Martin Ott from DOT is their Project Manager.


Discussion followed, and CASWELL emphasized the importance of this project.


Mayor Talerico said he did assume the role of Project Coordinator when he became Mayor.  He said we need to clarify what we are doing concerning the Project Coordinator position.  He said he thinks one of the reasons the Mayor is the Project Coordinator is because he can enter into contracts, amendments to the TORA etc.  He said the only person in the Borough right now who can commit the Borough to anything is him!


Minimal discussion followed, and CASWELL said this issue would be on the next agenda.


3.)  Public comments.


Healy resident David Braun said he has no intention of meeting Mr. Caswell in the parking lot or anywhere else.  His said this is hardly the first time Mr. Caswell has threatened violence against his fellow citizens from his position on the Assembly.  He said he thinks the Assembly has an obligation to deal with ethical complaint filed against him last May. 


Anchorage resident Nancy Bale said HB 244 is not a railroad to Kantishna, rather it is a dedicated project with a specific beneficiary within the wolf townships.  She said AIDEA’s involvement in this was rescinded by HB 244.  Bale said the TORA is very confusing.  She said in her opinion the TORA and HB 244 are two very separate issues.  She said the TORA is just a study.   


Healy resident Linda Pagenelli said she is glad to see the TORA on the agenda, considering it was signed nine months ago. She said she would have voted in opposition to the ordinance that was introduced today. 


Kantishna Holdings Representative Joe Fields complimented the Assembly on passing the ordinance and beginning the process.  He said he believes HB 244 went through every element of government as required, which included public hearings and notices.  He said in 1994 the Denali Task Force was initially found to be unacceptable and was amended to include the creation of a railroad right-of-way to Wonder Lake subject to the level of development at Wonder Lake.  He said their idea of building a hotel at Wonder Lake has been off the table for about eight years.  He said this provides the Borough with the opportunity for the Borough to be engaged in the process of evaluating the specific location of the corridor.  He said the Borough Attorney drafted the ordinance discussed earlier.  He reminded the Assembly to proceed with due diligence 


Healy resident John Miner said he doesn’t think the agenda needs to be changed as suggested earlier.   


Healy resident June James asked for the last meeting’s minutes, and asked how much land does the Borough own.  She said it would be nice to be able to hear what everyone was saying by using a PA system.


Healy resident Charlie Loeb said he had two comments to make.   He said he wonders about the need for this ordinance right now.  He said it looks like this is asking Kantishna Holdings to do the same thing.  Loeb said this project was sold as a project to everyone as a 100% privately financed project.  He said at some point that is probably not going to be the way it’s going to occur.   He urged the Borough to proceed with caution.


Healy resident Jeff Yanuchi said he would like to thank the public, the Assembly, the staff and everyone for coming out to attend this meeting!  He suggested that when the northern access ordinance is published, an explanation be included.  He said not everyone knows what the ordinance is about by just reading the title.  Yanuchi said he thinks emotion plays a part in  the decision making process as well.  He said when you are discussing tourism; people make an emotional contact with the wilderness when they travel into the Park.


Yanuchi said he has twin boys and one of them has autism.  He said her would like to thank the School District for all their help.   He said the twins would be attending kindergarten next year!  He said he hopes his son will be able to get into the mainstream at the school and have a life that most of us take for granted.


Joe Fields said he is available to anyone who would like to discuss the project with him. He said he still stands by their proposal for private capital to build this project.


Healy resident Phyllis Stickle said she would like the Assembly to think twice before you spend any money because she is not willing to pay taxes!


Healy resident Teresa Usibelli reminded everyone to sign the comment sheets provided by DOT.  She said the Healy Hockey “skate with Santa” is on the 22nd, and the fireworks show is at the hockey rink on the 31st.


LAUGMAN said he knows that there are some people from Anderson that are upset because he was appointed to the vacant Assembly seat.   He said he represents the whole Borough, but his district is the Anderson/Clear/ and the Parks Highway.


                                    SHELTON said he would like to see a resurrection of the Borough website. 


                                    Administrative Clerk Amanda Nyberg said the website is updated monthly.




                                    MICHAELS said regardless of what happens to the ordinance in the future it has already produced discussion and that’s important!


                                    HALL said she is on the AML Board of Directors and they are working on improving government efficiency and economic development throughout the State.


CASWELL welcomed the new member and told them they have now seen a demonstration of what it means to be a public figure.  He said you might have the benefit of having a member of the public coming to a public meeting and say things about you that you never knew.  He said you might hear disingenuous statements about you stated in a public forum!


NEXT MEETING       CASWELL said the Mayor and the Staff requested that the next meeting be held on January 15th instead of January 8th.  SHIELDS said she could not make a meeting on the 15th.  Mayor Talerico said we have people going on vacation, the holidays, etc., so preparing for a meeting that will be held on the 8th will be difficult.  CASWELL said the Assembly would understand if they are short on some of the items on the agenda. 


The next Assembly meeting will be held on January 8, 2003 in McKinley Village.


ADJOURNMENT      CASWELL declared the regular meeting adjourned at 9:38 pm.



ATTEST:  _________________________          APPROVED:  __________________



Date Approved:  ____________________