Petersburg Borough Assembly Chambers. (Photo by KFSK)

The Petersburg Borough Assembly met last week on Monday at noon. During that meeting, they also scheduled a special executive session—closed to the public—which took place Friday.

The Petersburg Borough Assembly considered a resolution to change assembly meeting times. It proposed moving all meeting times to 6pm in the evenings instead of alternating noon and evening meeting times. Three residents spoke in support of the resolution. 

Danna Thynes called in to comment. “For the past several years,” she said, “the Borough assembly has met alternately at six in the evening, or 12 in the afternoon, unless a person really has their finger on the pulse of local politics that’s hard to keep track of. It is particularly a problem for people who are not retired, who still have day jobs.”

Glorianne Wollen testified in person to support evening meetings and suggested meetings be moved to seven pm instead of six.  “Just because for those of us that are in the working public,” she said, “it’s really hard for us to as well as department heads to get home, get our kids situated, get a babysitter that isn’t in a sport there, and able to attend to our kids to be here for the meeting. So I don’t know why six o’clock is now the new norm for most meetings… But it really isn’t convenient for people with children.”

Assembly member Donna Marsh proposed an amendment to the resolution so that meeting times would be moved to seven. But that amendment failed. The Assembly received one letter against the resolution and one supporting. They also received an unofficial petition with 72 signatures in support.

Assembly member Bob Lynn spoke at length against changing the meeting times and reminded the Assembly of its history considering this issue. He said the alternating times allow a wider variety of participation. “Having noon and night meetings ensures that all residents have an opportunity to be heard regardless of how they chose to participate. The ways of participating vary.”

He noticed that those comments in favor of only having evening meeting times said that the borough should not favor the minority at the expense of the majority. Lynn said this conflicted with the aims of the borough when they originally considered accessibility. “One common value that emerged,” he said, “and I want to emphasize was to assure that everyone in the borough had an equal chance to participate regardless of whether they were in the majority or the minority.”

Ultimately, the resolution to change the meeting times to evenings failed with a four to three vote. 

In other Assembly business, Assembly member Bob Lynn was appointed as Vice Mayor. Ambre Burrell will join the Parks and Recreation advisory board. And Scott Roberge will fill the vacant seat on the Harbors and Ports advisory board. The Assembly passed two resolutions for the third-and-final time. Moving forward, property seized by the borough due to tax foreclosure will be sold instead of held for public use. And the Assembly approved the adjustment to next year’s fiscal year budget for known changes. 

The assembly postponed making a decision on whether to appoint an outside law firm to represent the borough in a lawsuit. (The borough is facing two lawsuits but the Assembly was considering legal representation for just one of them.) That lawsuit relates to a records request. It was filed against the Borough and Clerk Debra Thompson by Don Koenigs. The firm suggested by the Borough’s insurance is Jermain, Dunnagan, and Owens of Anchorage. 

The Assembly chose to move that discussion to a special closed meeting that took place on Friday at 5pm so they could privately consult the Borough’s in-house lawyer. After that special meeting, the Assembly passed the resolution to appoint the law firm as special legal counsel for the lawsuit.