Legislature(1993 - 1994)
11/03/1993 09:09 AM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS introduced SB 203 (MANDATORY MUNICIPAL POLICE SERVICES) as the next order of business. JOSH FINK, committee aide, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee, stated SB 203 was introduced by the committee at the request of the Municipality of Anchorage. It will require unified municipalities to provide law enforcement services on an areawide basis. There are three unified municipalities in Alaska: Anchorage, Juneau and Sitka. Both Juneau and Sitka currently provide areawide police coverage. The Municipality of Anchorage provides police service to approximately 80 percent of the city. Hillside and some other portions of Anchorage have repeatedly rejected paying for police coverage. The current system on the Hillside in which police officers respond to a call only if there is a car available does not provide sufficient protection to the hundreds of residents, teachers and students in that area. If enacted, SB 203 would override any municipal charter prohibition or local area vote. Mr. Fink noted there was a draft committee substitute for the committee's consideration to address the concern that the original bill did not contain a mechanism to fund the new officers that would be required in the new areas served. It would allow for the mill rate being adjusted in the new service areas to cover the additional cost. DUANE UDLAND, Deputy Chief, Anchorage Police Department, noted the city administration's support for SB 203. Deputy Chief Udland said that from his own personal perspective, it is a question of equity. At one time he lived on the Hillside and he felt it was odd that he lived in probably the richest area in town and yet he was receiving free police service. Deputy Chief Udland said things have changed, and it is at a point now where having areawide police service makes a lot of sense. He added that the State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department do an excellent job on the Hillside, and it really isn't an issue of who does the better job; it is an issue of taxes. Right now, residents of the Hillside don't have to pay for the service. SENATOR ADAMS referred to Section 4 in the draft committee substitute and asked if that transition section was necessary. He suggested eliminating it, and if the legislation passes, the Act take effect July 1, 1994 versus waiting until January 1, 1995. DEPUTY CHIEF UDLAND answered that he thought a transition period was needed because there is a lag time for the department to hire new people and get them into place. SENATOR LEMAN requested information be provided to the committee on what areas are providing police protection. MAJOR GLEN GODFREY, Deputy Director, Alaska State Troopers, stated the Department of Public Safety's and the Division of Alaska State Troopers' support for SB 203. Major Godfrey pointed out that Juneau and Sitka have been successful in doing this type of enforcement, and it has relieved the Division of Alaska State Troopers from that type of duties, allowing them to concentrate on their primary duties such as highway patrol, traffic investigation, statewide search and rescue, and providing support to rural areas and to the statewide Village Safety Officer program. Currently, there are 259 positions in the Division of Alaska State Troopers, of which 27 are vacant. There will be a class graduating from the Alaska State Trooper Academy next month and they will be filling in their vacancies with those new troopers. MARY FROHNE, representing the Hillside East Community Council in Anchorage, stated the Hillside residents are not against paying their fair share for police protection. She said they have been served well in the past by the Alaska State Troopers. Ms. Frohne said to override the provision in their charter, which gives them the ability to vote on what services they should receive in the Hillside area, is not a good policy. She said if they were given the choice of being served by either the Alaska State Troopers or the Anchorage Police Department they would probably select the troopers. If they were forced to vote on the city police, it would probably fail again. BARBARA WEINIG, President of the Rabbit Creek Council in Anchorage, stated that when unification came about, the service area concept and being able to choose what services you wanted was very important, and it is still extremely important to her area. She believes it is a bad precedent for the state to enact legislation that would override local charters. She also voiced their willingness to pay for State Trooper services. Responding to questions from Ms. Weinig, MAJOR GODFREY said at this point in time, they plan on keeping their trooper stationed in Girdwood, specifically for highway patrol and traffic enforcement. In the last year, there have been eight traffic fatalities on that stretch of highway. SCOTT BRANDT- EARECKSON, an assistant municipal attorney, said the troopers currently have jurisdiction within the Chugach State Park area, and he believes that with the passage of the legislation they would retain that jurisdiction. SENATOR KELLY said he has talked to several people on the Hillside and one of their big complaints was that they had to pay a higher mill rate in that area. He asked if there were different mill rates in various sections of the municipality for police protection. SCOTT BRANDT-EARECKSON answered that within a particular service area where the service is being provided, the mill rate is uniform. Different sections of town have different mill rates based upon different services that they receive. The budget director for the Municipality of Anchorage, clarified that if the Hillside were to come in everybody would be paying the same amount for police protection. JUDY MOERLEIN, President, Home and Landowners' Organization, Inc., said they have found that the people are not unwilling to pay their fair share for police protection, but they feel that the troopers have a certain ability to handle more rural situations. SENATOR RIEGER commented that he thinks the feeling in South Anchorage is that they've never had a chance to really express in a vote what they would like to see. They've had proposals put before them which are not acceptable, and when they get turned down, it gets distorted into being a perception that there is an unwillingness to pay. He added that he thought that any reasonable proposal which regarded trooper coverage would be passed overwhelmingly by these people. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS pointed out that Eagle River is probably more rural in nature than the Hillside area, but several years ago they voted to pay for police protection in Eagle River. He said the sentiment of his constituents is that the Hillside should be paying for police protection, and sooner or later this issue is going to have to be resolved. TAPE 93-29, SIDE B BARBARA WEINIG said that during all of the talks and hearings that they had on this issue, prior to even the task force being formed, one of the things that came to light was that the Municipality of Anchorage was charging Southeast Anchorage for a level of service that they couldn't provide, and that the level of service they could provide would be in response to incidents level because there was no way of effectively patrolling many of the roads in Southeast Anchorage. She reiterated that the people felt that the troopers could provide a better level of service and they were willing to contract and pay for that service. PATTY SWENSON, Staff to Representative Con Bunde in Anchorage, asked if under SB 203 the Hillside residents will be able to pay for just the services they receive. The budget director for the Municipality of Anchorage answered that property taxes do discriminate; they discriminate on the basis of value, so the people in higher assessed valuation areas, such as the Hillside, do pay more for the services they receive. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked if there is anything being done right now for a ballot proposition for self-determination on the question. JUDY MORELINE answered that there isn't at this time, but that they are trying to find the mode which will most expeditiously accomplish a State Trooper agreement between them and those people who have said that they want to pay for that service. SENATOR KELLY asked if a fiscal note has been provided by the Division of State Troopers on what it would it cost them to adequately police the Hillside area. MAJOR GODFREY responded that he has not seen one, and Senator Kelly requested that a fiscal note be provided. There being no further witnesses present to testify on SB 203, SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS adjourned the meeting at 1:09 p.m.