City of Anchorage poised to propose solution for Seward Highway patrols

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The issue of funding for Seward Highway patrols may have a long-term solution if the Municipality of Anchorage gets its way.

Bill Falsey, municipal manager for the city, said the plan is to introduce an ordinance to allow the municipality to patrol the highways on an area-wide basis.

Falsey presented the ordinance plan at the Assembly Public Safety committee on Wednesday.

Girdwood and Whittier have been sharing Whittier's police department, but the highway still doesn't have a permanent fix.

"We would be able to solve the evolving problem that we have been reacting to since 2015 as the troopers have withdrawn from their historic responsibilities of patrolling the Seward Highway south of McHugh Creek," Falsey said.

The Anchorage Police Department is currently "episodically" patrolling the stretch of road using a $200,000 grant from the state legislature, which will likely run out in March, Falsey said.

Falsey estimates the cost of the highway patrol function to be about $4 million annually.

"That $4 million would be spread out to the whole municipality meaning that, because the Anchorage metropolitan police service area includes about 98 percent of total assessed property in the municipality, you end up getting this very minor reduction in your net tax bill, about 21 cents per $100,000 of assessed evaluation," Falsey said.

Those living outside of the Anchorage police metropolitan area or Girdwood would see an increase of about $11 per $100,000 dollars of assessed value, Falsey said.

"We wanted to get this done so that if there's no more money coming from Juneau, we are in a position to catch this fall and to be on the highway," Falsey said.

Falsey said the ordinance would not change the total amount of taxes that the municipality collects and would not increase the police department's budget, but it would change the way taxes are collected.

"The solution that we've put forward would actually have the effect of lowering taxes for the vast majority of the Anchorage metropolitan tax payers while increasing taxes slightly for those south of McHugh Creek who are currently not paying for any highway patrol," Falsey said. "It would allow us to put the police department officers down there using those funds."

Assemblyman John Weddleton said not everyone may be on board with paying more in taxes.

"I think some will be frustrated that they have to pay some money for it, but I think most understand you have to pay for it, you don't get it for free," Weddleton said.

With APD's officer numbers up to 430, deputy chief Ken McCoy said it's a plan the department could manage.

"We've been growing as a department so we're at a point where we feel we could support that effort if the proposal passes, so the increased gains that we've had through recent academies would allow us to conduct traffic enforcement," McCoy said.

Falsey said the ordinance won't require voter approval and it could be introduced as early as February 13 for potential action two weeks later.

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