Turnagain Arm communities may be asked to tax themselves for police service

Residents of communities along Turnagain Arm may soon be asked to tax themselves to pay for police protection, with Anchorage officials saying the city has few options with Alaska State Troopers pulling out of the area at the end of April.

At Tuesday's Anchorage Assembly meeting, city attorney Bill Falsey said the city plans to ask for a special ballot in the April 4 city election to create a new police service area for Turnagain Arm.

That means people who live in Rainbow, Portage Valley, Bird Creek and Indian could be taxed to pay for the Anchorage Police Department to respond to crimes. Last fall, Girdwood voters authorized a tax increase to pay for Whittier police to provide protection after the closure of the trooper post there.

Several hundred people live in the Turnagain Arm outside of Anchorage and Girdwood. A majority of those voters would have to approve the proposal.

Alaska State Troopers plan to stop policing Turnagain Arm communities after April 30, Col. James Cockrell, Alaska State Troopers director, told the city in a letter Monday.

The new Turnagain Arm service area would not affect police service on the Seward Highway itself, a question being negotiated by city and state officials.

Separately, Falsey said the administration also intends to call for a second special ballot for Girdwood voters that would expand the size of the Girdwood service area. He said the goal would be to help pay for annual maintenance on the Winner Creek hand tram.

Falsey wrote in an email that while the city is past the deadline to add both items to the regular election ballot, it's possible to print 2,000 ballots needed for what would technically be two special elections. Special elections require the city to give 30 days notice.

"It's the cheapest way to address these issues quickly," Falsey wrote in the email.

Further details weren't available Tuesday night. Falsey said his department is still finishing the proposals and plans to introduce them at a special meeting with the Assembly on Friday. The Assembly is slated to vote on whether to send the proposals to the ballot at its March 7 meeting. 

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.