Will Prince of Wales Island become Alaska’s newest borough? POW Community Advisory Council members are looking into whether incorporating might be right for their island.
The council, made up of representatives from island communities, has drafted a request for proposals, seeking bids from contractors to write up a borough study.
Advisory Council Chairman Jon Bolling said the issue has been discussed previously, but this is the first time it has reached the level of a formal study.
“Lately, POWCAC has been talking more and more about wanting to know some of the detailed pros and cons, the implications for borough formation here on Prince of Wales,” he said. “Going through this RFP process will give us better, by better I mean more detailed, answers than we’ve had in the past on what borough formation would mean for the island and its communities.”
Bolling said the study will be paid for through a $30,000 state legislative grant. The state actively encourages unincorporated areas to form boroughs.
The study would look at different types of boroughs in Alaska, the functions and duties a POW borough might have, and how forming a borough might affect school funding.
The study also would estimate how much state land the new borough could select, how forming a borough might affect tribal communities, and how to select borough assembly members on such a large island.
Bolling said the council, formed in 1989, comprises representatives from all the island’s communities, including unincorporated villages, as well as tribes.
“POWCAC has no statutory authority whatsoever. Just as the name says, it’s advisory,” he said.
Once chosen, the contractor also would be asked to develop a realistic budget, and identify ways the new borough could raise funds, such as federal payments in lieu of taxes, federal and state school funding, state grants and state shared-revenue programs.
The RFP timeline shows a Sept. 4 deadline for bids to be submitted at Craig City Hall, with the POW council choosing a contractor in early October. A draft version of the study would be due mid-January 2013, allowing council members to comment before the final deadline of April 22, 2013.
Bolling said that after that, the council would meet and decide whether to move forward.
“If there’s a high level of interest in taking another step toward borough formation, then we’ll work on that,” he said. “But if it’s not clear that there’s an obvious benefit to forming a borough for the island, then it’s more likely that we won’t carry on. It will really all boil down to what we see as the best interest of POW based on the recommendations in the report.”
Bolling said that if island residents decide to try forming a borough, they would submit a petition to the state Local Boundary Commission. He said he’s not sure right now what’s needed after that, but he’ll learn if they get to that point.
“I’m about to become more educated in it as we go through this process,” he said.
Alaska has 18 organized boroughs, and one very large unorganized borough, to which POW now belongs. About half of Alaska and about 13 percent of the state’s population are in the unorganized borough.