The Haines Assembly postponed decisions on two of the most controversial items on its Tuesday agenda: a new community safety service area and excise taxes on tobacco and marijuana.
Haines residents will not decide this October whether to the expand local police jurisdiction through a wider area of the borough.
The prospect of establishing a new community safety service area became complicated. So, the assembly decided to postpone it indefinitely.
“It just became way more complex than we are prepared to make a decision on right now,” said Heather Lende.
The service area proposal is a mechanism to provide police coverage to areas of Haines outside of the townsite. It’s a response to the Alaska State Troopers closing its Haines post.
The new service area would expand Haines police jurisdiction to areas left in limbo by the trooper departure. The assembly was originally en route to get the service area question on the Oct. 3 ballot. But that is no longer the plan.
The issue will go to committee for further vetting. Borough Manager Debra Schnabel suggested the committee try to finish its work on the service area question by January, so the borough can schedule a special election if needed.
The assembly members still disagree on whether to levy excise taxes on marijuana and tobacco. Sean Maidy continued to protest the tax on marijuana. There are five Haines pot business applications pending with the state.
“We would be taxing the new businesses in Haines,” Maidy said.
The assembly did agree that the marijuana and tobacco taxes should not be merged together. The body voted to direct staff to make two separate ordinances. That means the tax proposals will need to go through additional public hearings.
A suggested ballot question that would amend Haines charter died at Tuesday’s meeting.
The question would have changed charter to say that only the borough manager serves at the pleasure of the assembly. Right now, it gives the assembly power over the manager, clerk, chief fiscal officer and attorney.
But what that means isn’t clearly defined. The assembly has the ability to fire those officers, but doesn’t play a consistent role in evaluations.
“One thing I would like to see is to have us have more oversight in the officers’ evaluations,” said Ron Jackson. “So I would direct the manager to come up with a policy to make sure the assembly is part of the evaluation of officers.”
That motion passed, with only Tom Morphet opposed. He said the assembly doesn’t need to play a role in every evaluation of the officers in question.
“I don’t need to be critiquing the officers of the borough,” Morphet said. “But I do believe it’s important that we ultimately have the power to let go a borough officer because of the enormous power they wield.”
This means three items that had the potential to make it on to the Oct. 3 election ballot will not. The charter amendment was rejected, the excise taxes are going through more hearings, and the police service area was sent to committee.