GBOS, Whittier Near Interim Police Contract
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
The dominant topic of September’s Girdwood Board of Supervisors meeting was the status of the short-term and long-term policing contracts with Whittier.
When asked about an interim police contract, Supervisor Sam Daniel wrote, “It’s looking favorable to have an interim contract in place by Oct. 15th.”
An interim contract would run from Oct. 15 until a three-year contract at $619,000 per year is signed. Girdwood would have partial coverage, but not as much as the long-term contract would provide. Whittier’s Chief Dave Schofield would work with his current staff for coverage since he cannot hire new officers until there is a contract agreement.
“Chief Schofield has assured me that if we can come up with an agreement, that we would have regular, daily patrols in Girdwood, which would encompass several hours a day as well as coverage for any 911 calls.”
Alaska State Troopers will vacate their Girdwood post Oct. 1. If police are needed in the communities along Turnagain Arm, AST will only respond in the event of what it deems a major emergency. Troopers would be dispatched from Anchorage, Seward or Cooper Landing, depending on the time of day.
Hours before the meeting, Daniel, Municipal Liaison to Girdwood Kyle Kelley, Whittier Mayor Daniel Blair and Whittier City Manager Mark Lynch had lunch at Chair 5 to discuss policing contracts.
Daniel described the lunch by stating, “We had a very nice conversation and a very productive meeting. I think that all of the major issues that have been identified are resolving themselves down to a point where in the not too distant future we will have a contract.”
Daniel said Whittier gave its latest round of contract edits to the Municipality, which has taken input from Public Safety Advisory Committee, and forwarded the input to Whittier. The parties are getting closer to reaching agreement. He also said the 911 connectivity issue is going to be resolved after a recent meeting between Anchorage Police Department, the Municipality, ACS and GCI.
“We’re down to about three major points, but because of the way the process works in Whittier, irrespective of getting a finalized contract together, it requires at least two meetings in separate months in order for them to approve the contract. We don’t have a contract that is in a finalized enough state at this point to be presented at their next city council meeting, which is tomorrow.”
One of the big concerns raised by the public and supervisors is that property taxes are collected for policing but receiving no service in return. Proposition 9, which passed by three votes after a recount in the April Municipal Election, allowed GBOS to tax for policing in the Girdwood Service Area.
When Supervisor Tommy O’Malley asked what would happen to the tax money collected for policing, Daniel replied, “The money has been encumbered.” Any taxes collected for policing must be spent on it, which means any leftover money from fiscal year 2016 will be available for the same purpose in the next year’s budget.
Daniel credited his three-minute public comment at the Sept. 14 Anchorage Assembly meeting for getting traction on moving the contract process forward and addressing the 911 communication issue. Daniel asked the Assembly for help in completing the contract in a timely manner and finding a solution to route 911 calls to Whittier if a contract is completed. Daniel’s comments led to animated discussion with Municipal Manager Mike Abbott in the hallway outside the Assembly chamber, which was briefly captured on camera by KTVA’s Carolyn Hall.
“There was a rather interesting discussion that took place out in the foyer with Municipal Manager Mike Abbott and the Municipal Attorney,” Daniel said. “We went upstairs and had a brief conference and kind of laid out a plan of attack. I have to say they have been moving forward diligently with helping us to accomplish that.”
Daniel was also unapologetic about standing up for Girdwood’s residents to Municipal officials, stating “I have to say that I ruffled a lot of feathers at the Assembly meeting, and basically said that if we can’t get this taken care of very shortly, that we would fill the Assembly Chamber with Girdwood residents because we have a right as a community to have the same level of service as the folks in Anchorage do. Everyone has worked in good faith towards making that happen, but there is no question that the squeaky wheel gets the grease around here. I have made it a point to become a squeaky wheel on your behalf.”