Legislature(1993 - 1994)
01/20/1994 09:09 AM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR PHILLIPS announced SB 203 (MUNICIPAL POLICE SERVICES) to be be up for consideration. JOSH FINK, Aide for Senator Kelly, said SB 203 was introduced by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee at the request of the Municipality of Anchorage. It requires unified municipalities to provide law enforcement services on an area-wide basis. There are three unified municipalities in Alaska - Juneau, Anchorage, and Sitka. Both Juneau and Sitka provide area-wide police coverage. The Municipality of Anchorage provides police service to approximately over 80% of Anchorage. MR. FINK explained that the issues are public safety and equity among Anchorage residents. Hillside and portions of the southeast side of Anchorage have repeatedly rejected paying for police coverage. As of this summer the State Troopers are not directly hooked up to the City's new and enhanced 911 system and emergency response will be severely hampered. There are 7 elementary and 2 secondary schools in the non-service area. 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 for the teachers and students in that area. The second issue is fairness. While these residents do not pay, as do the rest of Anchorage residents, they receive free emergency backup from the Anchorage Police Department and State Troopers at their homes. They receive the benefit of free service when working or shopping or engaging in other activities while in the rest of the city. They should pay for these services. MR. FINK said there is an alternate proposal from Senator Kelly allowing the assembly of a unified municipality to set up a police service area by ordinance overriding the charter provisions on requiring a vote for the police service area. This idea was taken directly from the Task Force on Governmental Roles Report 1992 in which a number of legislators and community leaders participated. He said the State Troopers want to work more in the bush since they have already suffered closure of 8 stations. Number 108 SENATOR TAYLOR asked if anything prevented the Hillside from setting up their own police force. MR. FINK said there would be the problem of vigilantism. SENATOR TAYLOR noted there is a very high cost to support a police officer in downtown Anchorage. State Troopers are cheap compared to police. MR. FINK said he didn't think they could lawfully do it. Number 145 SENATOR PHILLIPS asked for a cost comparison. MR. FINK said according to recent figures, Trooper coverage would cost $4.7 million and the city would cost $4.5 million. Number 164 DUANE UDLAND, Deputy Chief, Anchorage Police Department, pointed out that on the salary issue there really isn't a lot of difference in cost between a trooper and an officer. He explained that recently a good portion of the Hillside has come into the police service area. Now there are about 16,000 people who are served by Troopers - most of them in Hillside. That would be about the 4th largest city in the state and it is one of the wealthier areas and has the tax base to do it. SENATOR TAYLOR said he can sympathize with his testimony, but he is embarrassed by the amount of salaries paid in his Department. They are much more than in any other area of the United States. He thinks they are out of line. MR. UDLAND said he didn't have much control over the salaries, but recognized it as an issue. Number 262 SENATOR RIEGER, from South Anchorage, said the neighborhoods created a task force and sent out a survey to find out what kind of coverage they wanted and what they would be willing to pay for. The people on the Hillside did regard police coverage as important. Most important was serious crimes and neighborhood patrols. The lowest priorities were routine traffic patrols, neighborhood watch, etc. More that half were willing to pay a significant amount of property tax for police coverage. They have rejected paying for Anchorage police department coverage, they have never rejected paying for trooper coverage. The survey indicates overwhelmingly that they would pay for it. The most popular option was using State Troopers supported by taxes. Management of Department of Public Safety has opposed the concept. The fiscal note presented in the House Bill was modeled on Senator Taylor's proposal of an entire police department the size of the City and Borough of Juneau covering south Anchorage. SENATOR RIEGER encouraged the Committee to allow the Hillside to pay for the full cost of Trooper coverage. He noted that property taxes pay for the cost of commerce by Hillside residents in the City. Number 414 SENATOR ADAMS asked if the Hillside would be willing to pay for a contract with the Troopers. SENATOR RIEGER answered yes the is an unquestioned willingness to pay. SENATOR TAYLOR asked him if he had proposed language. As a courtesy to Senator Kelly he would like to work with him first. SENATOR TAYLOR said he had a real concern about local improvement districts being utilized for sewer, water, fire department services, etc. You end up with overlying multileveled boards and groups for something that should be done on an area-wide basis. As these communities expand, no one wants to pay for the high cost of downtown. Setting up separate areas sounds good until you end up with real conflicts on policy calls between the service areas. SENATOR RIEGER said the only other problem he could see now is with the road service areas which seems to be working quite well in Anchorage - especially in the road maintenance area where there isn't a tug of war to see who gets their streets plowed first. Number 470 JOE MERDE, Anchorage Assembly, said they have tried to deal with this issue on the Assembly two or three times. He disagrees with Senator Rieger that the Hillside pays their fair share of the downtown area. It's ludicrous to think they are not a part of Anchorage, because they pay for a lot of other services. He explained that right now there are 54 police officers who put in a lot of overtime. They need more police officers to bring that balance down to the right pay level a police officer should make. SENATOR RIEGER responded that the Hillside does not belong to Anchorage which is the fundamental problem that led to the compromise in the charter in the first place. Number 514 SENATOR LEMAN asked if the municipality cost recovered on a response to an emergency. MR. MERDE answered that it does. Number 520 C. E. SWACKHAMMER, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Public Safety, said they now feel the population they are dealing with is around 20,000, but will not refute the 16,000 person figure. His Department and the Administration is opposed to a contractual basis for Trooper services based on a public policy perspective. Previous administrations have taken the same position. They are trying to remove the Troopers from urban settings and put them into rural Alaska. Municipalities that have the means should police themselves. The second part of the public policy issue deals with instability and the cyclic nature that contracts present for public safety management. Under proposed legislation, contracts would not only be allowed for the Hillside, but to every other municipality in the state. SENATOR LEMAN asked for a chart indicating Trooper protection. MR. SWACKHAMMER said he could provide that information and explained there are several residential areas where they provide police for areas that can't provide for themselves. TAPE 94-4, SIDE B Number 580 SENATOR RIEGER proposed a population threshold size as a solution. SENATOR TAYLOR pointed out that they have found ways to make it work although, there should be a uniform policy. SCOTT BRANDT-ERICKSON, Assistant Municipal Attorney for Anchorage, stated his support for Senator Kelly's committee substitute. He referred to Article X Section 5 of the Alaska Constitution regarding service areas. He spoke to the many cost issues of a separate service area. SENATOR TAYLOR stated that when you break down the costs by the residential or commercial areas the greatest cost would probably be in the downtown core area where the highest level of crime and the greatest level of concentration necessary for patrol would seem to be located. Mr. Erickson expressed the need to determine if proposed cost figures include all of the costs to maintain a separate service area. Number 455 CHAIRMAN RANDY PHILLIPS expressed his intention to meet with Senator Kelly and Senator Rieger on Monday to discuss SB 203. He held over SB 203.