More than 100 residents in Willow attended the third public hearing for the proposed 2019 budget for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough last night. Several testified their support for funding the Willow Library replacement and community center upgrade. Manager John Moosey had placed $1 million in the proposed budget. The Mat-Su Health Foundation is pledging $1.698 million for the $5.6 million project.
Mat-Su Health Foundation's CEO Elizabeth Ripley urged the Assembly to fund the Willow Library project at $1.9 million. She said Rasmusson may fund $500,000 and more may come from national funders?
She said social connectedness is a key community asset in building a healthier population. The library and community center serve as a hub for the largest census designated place in the nation, 692.9 square miles, Ripley said.
Willow resident Tamara Boeve shared insight on how the Willow hub of library and center connects locals. Listen to her audio here. "The very best people in the world live here and probably some of the worst. (laughs) We attract a diverse bunch. We disagree on almost everything—zoning, marijuana, politics, religion. But the one place that we come together is here in this building..." Listen to her full testimony.
Assembly Member Randall Kowalke, who represents the area, said he supports the library project. Listen to his quote here. "We'll work on it. ... I don't think there's any doubt here in the worthiness of this project."
Assembly Member George McKee asked the audience to remember that their taxes will go up to pay for it. Listen to his quote.
Mayor Vern Halter said he believes the project will get built. He pledged the 2 years of raise that was promised him, which he never took, to the library project budget. The Mayor cannot make motions to amend the budget. It would require the Assembly to amend the budget by reducing his salary by $10,000 and increasing the allocation to the Willow Library project by $10,000.
The public hearing on the budget closed last night. The Assembly is expected to deliberate the budget on Thursday in the Assembly chambers at 6 pm at 350 E. Dahlia Ave. in Palmer. Tonight is a regular Assembly meeting.