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New Fairbanks municipal gas utility board of directors is nearly complete

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Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 11:57 pm | Updated: 12:09 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The leadership of the newly formed municipal natural gas utility is nearly complete, and the board plans to hold its first meeting next week.

There are still a few gaps on the seven-member board of directors, but, with five appointments, the Interior Alaska Natural Gas Utility is scheduled to hold its first official meeting on Nov. 20.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins has appointed Bob Shefchik, who serves as executive officer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Shefchik volunteered to help oversee a recent borough study of a natural gas distribution system and also is the chairman of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Committee. He served as the chief of staff for former Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker and had a lengthy career with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

The city of North Pole has appointed Bill Butler, the director of city services, as its one pick, said Mayor Bryce Ward. North Pole won’t be able to officially participate in the utility until early next year because of its city rules.

Hopkins has yet to make two more appointments to the board. Nevertheless, the board has enough members to meet quorum so the board can begin to lay the ground work for the utility.

Borough Assembly Presiding Officer Diane Hutchison appointed veteran utility expert Steve Haagenson, a former CEO of Golden Valley Electric Association and former state energy director, as her pick in late October.

The city of Fairbanks has announced two nominees, engineer Frank Abegg and Mike Meeks, longtime director of public works at Fort Wainwright.

Hopkins said he plans to officially appoint the other two members at a special meeting on Dec. 6.

At the Nov. 20 meeting, the board will go over bylaws and the state open meetings act, Hopkins said.

“We’ve assembled different bylaws from other utilities, so they can see what the range of actions are,” he said.

Meetings in November and December will help shape the utility, Hopkins said. He said the group plans to meet at least once a week.

Also at play are the pending results from Gov. Sean Parnell’s recent visit to the Fairbanks area. The governor met with local stakeholders to discuss how the state could best help Fairbanks reduce its cost of energy.

Hopkins said he’s hoping to see an indication of the governor’s intentions in Parnell’s proposed state budget for fiscal year 2014, due for release Dec. 15.

“If there is any content in there for the municipal gas utility or if it’s some kind of program through one of his departments, I would expect more structure then,” Hopkins said.

The board could develop its bylaws in December to have them ready for Borough Assembly approval in January, he said.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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