Native corporation opts out of contract to pick up Anchorage inebriates

Nathaniel Herz

The Alaska Native corporation subsidiary that the city pays to pick up drunk people from Anchorage streets is opting out of its contract, the firm said Thursday.

NANA Management Services spokeswoman Penny Cotten said the company is making a "business decision" and choosing to focus on its security operations Outside and in Anchorage.

The change was first reported by KTVA-Channel 11, after an announcement by the city's department of health and social services at an Assembly committee meeting Wednesday.

NANA Management Services, controlled by the Kotzebue-based NANA Development Corporation, has held the city contract for the last eight years.

Under the contract, NANA has been responsible for a van service that picks up drunk people from city streets, as well as the operation of the Anchorage Safety Center, on Third Avenue, where individuals are cared for until they recover.

In 2012, the latest year for which data are available, NANA made 15,000 pickups, or 41 per day.

"We're proud of the work we've done through the last eight years," Cotten said. "It's simply a business decision on where we need to focus."

NANA's last contract started in 2011, when it was the only entity that responded to the city's invitation to bid, said Ron Hadden, the city's chief purchasing officer.

The contract was for one year, and if the city and the firm agreed, there were up to four one-year extensions.

The first year of the contract was for $1.5 million, Hadden said. Last December, the Assembly added $500,000 in funding to allow for 24-hour van service.

NANA decided not to take its option this year, though it has agreed to a five-month extension while the city finds a new contractor, Hadden said.

The city plans to issue an invitation to bid on a new contract within the next two weeks, according to Janet Vietmeier, director of the city health department.

"We're pretty confident we can get somebody in the community that will take on this service," she said in an interview.

The state leases the Anchorage Safety Center -- including a large room adjacent to the Anchorage jail where inebriates lie on mats as they sober up -- to the city. The vans that pick up inebriates are NANA's responsibility, Vietmeier said.

She added that any decision to transfer current safety patrol and safety center staff would be up to NANA and the new contractor.

"That wouldn't be something we would have the authority to push," Vietmeier said.

Cotten, the NANA spokeswoman, said the corporation didn't expect to lay off any employees. She wouldn't say whether employees might be transferred.

"I really can't speculate. That would be their decision," she said.

Vietmeier wouldn't say which firms or organizations she thought would be good candidates for a new contract. Her department submitted a list of 28 potential options to city purchasing officials, Hadden said.

The list includes social service providers like Catholic Social Services and RurAL CAP, security firms like Securitas and Pinkerton, and Native corporations or affiliated organizations like Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Doyon Universal Services.

Nonetheless, the city does not plan to do any recruiting before releasing its bid documents, Hadden said.

"We're going to post it on the website and let industry propose to it," he said.

Paul Honeman, the chair of the Assembly's public safety committee, said he thought it would be "very tough" for the city to find a replacement for NANA.

"It's not an easy set of duties," he said. "They do have to deal with the ramifications of those that are extremely intoxicated. And they have to take them back to a building where somebody has to, for lack of a better word, babysit."

Assemblyman Ernie Hall said he was "disappointed" that NANA had opted out of its contract, given the demographic breakdown of the inebriates aided by the safety patrol and safety center.

Some 2,500 of the service's 3,400 "clients" in 2012 were Alaska Native, according to city data.

"It's like they're not helping to take care of their own," Hall said.

Cotten did not immediately respond to a follow-up email and phone call seeking a response.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.