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Assembly Considers Returning to Remote Meetings

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Kenai Peninsula Borough
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Annual meetings in Homer and Seward have fallen by the wayside during the pandemic.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly skipped its last two annual meetings in Homer and in Seward because of coronavirus concerns. At its meeting in Soldotna recently, the assembly held off on setting meeting places for the 2022 calendar year after getting requests to return to having meetings on the road.

Homer Assemblyman Lane Chesley said he’s heard from both those who would like to see them continue, and some who don’t care.

“We had received some comment to the fact that there were no meetings in the City of Homer or city of Seward, which has happened in previous years and has not happened during the pandemic,” Chesley said. “I had reached out to Mayor Castner in Homer to ask him about his sentiments about it, and he said I could quote him as being ambivalent. “

Seward Assemblywoman Cindy Eklund said her mayor was in favor of local meetings and would like to see them continue.

“I spoke with Mayor Terry in Seward and she would like to encourage the assembly to add the meetings in Seward and then of course in Homer,” she said.

Kenai Assemblyman Bill Elam said remote meetings are usually well-received.

“I went to the school board meeting down in Homer a couple of months ago, and I really appreciated seeing all of the folks that were down there. The community came out. We met in the high school and it was nice to see a lot of people that I had never met before. And so I think that there is some merit to that. I've also had several folks reach out to me from other areas throughout the borough that have requested that we would do as much as well,” Elam said. “So I would be supportive of continuing our travels even though I know that sometimes you may have an empty room.”

The last time the assembly meeting was held in Homer, in 2019, it was standing room only in the city council chambers.

Some assembly members worried that they would not have the same Zoom teleconferencing abilities if they met outside the assembly chambers in Soldotna.

At the suggestion of postponing a decision on meeting places to determine Zoom connectivity, Deputy Borough Clerk Michele Turner said a lot of interest in the schedule.

“There are a lot of people planning for 2022, and this meeting schedule is holding up that planning,” she said. “So a lot of people are talking about use of the room and whether or not they can present and so we have a lot of people that are actually waiting for this meeting scheduled to be set so they can start making determinations about presentations and legislation.”

Chesley suggested approving a part of the 2022 schedule, which Assembly President Brent Johnson ran past the clerk, who had her own suggestion.

“I just had a question: if we adopted your proposed schedule through March, if that would get us moving and get so the clerk could start booking things and we could still have the clerk's research the question,” Chesley said.

“I certainly like a new idea,” Johnson said. “Madam Clerk, what do you think of that?”

“Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Chesley,” Turner said. “If you can set the dates and then the locations could come forward at a different time. That would be appreciated.”

And with that, the dates for next calendar year’s meetings were set with unanimous assembly approval.