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Fairbanks asks businesses to help pay for transporting public inebriates

FAIRBANKS - The city has requested funds from local businesses to help support a program to transport people who are drunk in public, officials said.

The city of Fairbanks has sent 900 letters asking for funding from businesses in areas where the most Emergency Service Patrol calls have been made, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported Thursday.

The city has received 4,000 calls for the service and has transported 2,000 intoxicated individuals this year to a sleep-off facility, a sobering-up center or to the Fairbanks Correctional Facility, city officials said.

The program protects drunken people from being victimized and from cold-related injuries while easing the burden on emergency personnel and providing a safe public environment, officials said.

The service "can provide the quickest response for these individuals and it does benefit our residents, it benefits our public safety departments, our visitors and our local businesses," Fairbanks Communications Director Teal Soden said.

The Emergency Service Patrol program is expected to cost $255,500, a 13% increase from last year because of the addition of a foot patrol, city officials said. Less than half of the funds are expected to come from the city and the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Funding for the service has come from four sources since 2016 including a one-time state grant used from 2014 to 2017. City officials hope to fill funding gaps as state support and local tax revenues both fall, officials said.