Special Meeting Reviews Police Contracts, Proposed Rate Increase
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
The Public Safety Advisory Committee met twice last week to discuss interim and long-term police contracts with Whittier. With copies of the contracts unavailable at the Oct. 3 meeting, committee members talked over the proposed per day rate increase in the interim contract.
At an October 7 special meeting, committee members reviewed line-by-line recent changes to the proposed interim contract and increased per day policing rate.
Sam Daniel, Girdwood Board of Supervisors Co-Chair, announced at an Oct. 3 meeting that Whittier proposed rise of the per day rate paid in the interim contract to $2,000, which is above the verbally agreed upon $1,693. An additional proposal included extension of interim contract dates from November 30 to December 31. Daniel said an email from Whittier City Attorney Holly Wells to Municipal Attorney Bill Falsey indicated a big financial change from Whittier without explanation.
“The City of Whittier proposes a $2,000 per day rate for 78 days,” Daniel said, “which would run from October 15 through December 31. The long-term contract would then begin January 1, 2017, assuming it is authorized and put into effect by the parties.”
Daniel said Falsey wrote in an email forwarding the news, “I imagine the first question is going to be why the day rate of the proposed interim contract was higher than the prorated amount of the long-term contract.”
Committee members raised the same question, but no justification was provided for Whittier’s increase. The yearly cost of a long-term contract between Girdwood and Whittier is $618,000, equating to $1,693 per day, not $2,000. The proposed addition of seventy-eight days at $307 per day more would be like paying $730,000 a year for policing.
“It would be interesting to get a rationale for why they increased it [per day cost] and why they increased the time frame, because we were under the impression it would be just through November. What this tells us is they’re not expecting to get a long-term contract in until December,” said committee member Mandy Hawes.
Anchorage Assembly approved the interim agreement on Oct. 4th as a “sole source contract award for a not to exceed amount a $2,000 per day rate,” according to the memo Mayor Ethan Berkowitz presented to the Assembly. Assembly approval allows negotiations to proceed, yet GBOS is not locked into the proposed figure due to ongoing negotiations. A finalized contract would require signatures from the Municipality, GBOS, and Whittier.
Municipal Liaison to Girdwood Kyle Kelley said, “What the Assembly is agreeing to is to assign and allow for the money to be released for this.”
Apprehensions continue to be raised in the wake of proposed interim contract increase.
“My concern is the cost has jumped up with no apparent reason why or no justification to be seen,” said committee member Mike Edgington. “With the higher cost, there is the incentive to delay the long-term contract as long as possible. It’s costing us an extra $10,000 a month at this rate.”
To get GBOS, the Municipality and Whittier on the same page and expedite the process, Daniel proposed a meeting of all the major representatives for round table discussion on remaining issues. He believes the meeting would generate much faster turnaround between the three parties. Daniel also would like to include Municipal Manager Mike Abbott to facilitate explanation of the Municipality’s perspective.
“I’m requesting that not just Chief Schofield be there but Holly Wells [Whittier City Attorney] and that Mark Lynch the City Manager be there,” Daniel said. “I honestly believe that a lot of the things being negotiated are things he is putting in and not what we discussed with Schofield.”
Despite the latest wrinkle in the extended process of finding a policing solution, Daniel is optimistic and believes an agreement is within reach.
“I have to point out that in many ways this contract is a huge improvement going forward,” said Daniel. “Before we did not have a budget, and there were several things that were missing in earlier drafts that we now have.”
“A lot of the things we’re not in agreement on are really not large issues,” he said. “I’m really hopeful we can dial in the rest of it.”