The state’s battle to reduce the size of its budget played out in microcosm in the chambers of the Bethel City Council, which voted unanimously to raise the rent charged to the state for the DMV office in front of city hall. The state had requested a rent lower than market value due to budget cuts, but the city council refused. The difference is several thousand dollars per year, but council member Mitchell Forbes called it principle, the city’s “$6,000 pushback to Gov. [Mike] Dunleavy’s approach to rural Alaska.”
The council postponed any discussion of its own budget until Thursday. Council member Perry Barr reported that the budget is currently hundreds of thousands of dollars in deficit, but the body will meet one more time to try to balance it before the June 15 deadline. After that date, the budget will take effect in whatever state it’s in.
Council took time to review documents regarding the liquor license transfer from Kusko Liquor to the North West Company, which operates stores in Bethel under the Alaska Commercial Company. AC has promised to add a security guard, cameras, and implement a do-not-sell list. The council learned it has until July 6 to protest the license transfer. The Planning Committee will meet on Thursday, June 13 to decide whether to award AC a conditional use permit.
City Clerk Lori Strickler reported that the city recently certified a local option petition to restrict alcohol sales in Bethel to restaurants only, and to reduce the penalty for distributing alcohol. The petition needs 418 signatures to reach the ballot in October.
And finally, council member Fritz Charles addressed his DUI arrest last week in his closing statements.
"It’s my fault. I messed up, but oh well. Drive forward," Charles said.
His hearing on DUI charges will be held on July 16.