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Municipality, Whittier agree to interim Girdwood police contract

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published October 20, 2016

An Alaska State Trooper patrols downtown Girdwood on Thursday, May 28, 2015. State budget cuts prompted troopers to close its post, leaving the community to plan for its own law enforcement. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

The Municipality of Anchorage and Whittier agreed to a short-term police services contract for Girdwood on Thursday, set to take effect Saturday and last through at least the end of the year.

Girdwood residents narrowly passed a ballot measure in April's Anchorage municipal election to tax themselves to pay for police amid the planned closure of the local Alaska State Troopers post.

No fewer than two Whittier Police Department officers will begin responding to 911 calls originating in the Southcentral Alaska ski town on Saturday at 7 a.m., according to the contract.

The officers are not required to be in the Girdwood Valley Service Area every hour of every day, but the contract stipulates they always must be available to drive from Whittier to the service area when needed. The drive between the two towns is about 30 minutes.

Within the discretion of the Whittier chief of police, the police department plans to patrol Girdwood three times daily, the contract says.

Municipal manager Michael Abbott and Whittier city manager Mark Lynch signed the contract Thursday.

The contract is a temporary fix – it ends on New Year's Eve at 11:59 p.m. The municipality has the ability to extend the services by about three weeks if it gives Whittier notice by Dec. 15.

Officials continue to work on a longer-term solution, "but it will take time to secure the personnel and other resources to provide the extended services" identified by the interested parties, the contract says.

Beyond worries about Girdwood's public safety without a permanent police presence, the debate has focused on cost. Troopers said budget cuts prompted the closure of its post there.

The municipality will pay Whittier no more than $2,000 per day for the services outlined in the short-term contract. If a contact of at least three years is finalized, the daily price tag will total no more than about $1,700 per day, according to the contract.