Initial results in Tuesday's election showed Anchorage voters approving a proposition that allows the city to sell its power utility.
Passage of the proposition allows the city to move forward with the estimated $1 billion sale of Municipal Light & Power to the member-owned cooperative Chugach Electric Association.
Details of that deal still need to be worked out, and the sale would need to be weighed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. The final sale agreement would also need to be approved by the Chugach board of directors and the Anchorage Assembly.
The proposition had 33,031 yes votes and 15,893 no votes at about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
But at least 16,000 ballots have been received that have yet to be counted as of Tuesday evening, and others are on the way. People were still able to cast votes in Anchorage's first-ever vote-by-mail election Tuesday, even as initial results were announced.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and power company executives jointly announced plans for the proposed ML&P and Chugach deal in December, but a merger or sale of the city-owned utility has been discussed for decades.
A utilities working group created by the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. concluded that having two electric utilities in a city the size of Anchorage "has resulted in inherent inefficiencies that are creating growing costs for ratepayers," the Anchorage Daily News reported in December.
"I think it's a win for residents of the entire municipality," Berkowitz said of Tuesday evening's results on the measure. "We've got some hard negotiations ahead of us to make sure both sides get a deal that works for all of us. This is the end of the first phase. This is not the end of the road."
Julie Hasquet, spokeswoman for Chugach, said the next step is working out the final sale agreement.
"I think we're very excited, the numbers are looking good," she said Tuesday evening. "It's awesome the voters were paying attention."
This month, regulators made an interim ML&P rate increase permanent in order to pay off a new plant.
In the proposed $1 billion deal with Chugach Electric, $524 million would pay off ML&P's debt. Some of the money would go into a trust account to pay for city services. Chugach would also make payments over 30 years.
The proposed deal came under attack from Berkowitz's political opponents, who said the deal wasn't transparent enough.