The Anchorage Assembly stayed in session late into Tuesday night before voting to put a potential sale of city-owned Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric before local voters this spring.

The Assembly spent an additional hour debating the merits of the $1 billion deal, before a 10-1 vote placed the proposal on ballots in the municipality's mail-in election. Voters will be asked whether they will allow the city to sell ML&P at all, rather than whether the sale to Chugach should go through.

Last month, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz endorsed giving locals a say on Chugach’s proposed acquisition of ML&P, which would put both of Anchorage’s electricity providers under the same ownership.

On Tuesday night, Chugach officials reiterated promises that local electric rates won’t increase after a sale and that ML&P employees moving to Chugach would be protected. The combined utility’s cost savings would be realized over time, they said, and residents can expect to see lower electric bills.

Skeptics of the plan asked the Assembly where the billion-dollar purchase price would come from, and whether the sale would affect any of the city’s debts associated with ML&P.

“A billion-dollar sale of a public utility is the biggest sale this state has ever seen,” said Anchorage resident Judy Brady, who has been a Chugach customer since 1970. “We paid a whole lot less to Russia for the state of Alaska; we paid a whole lot less to the federal government for the railroad.”

Ballots will be mailed to local voters in March, for return by April 3.

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