Officials with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the three cities met with the State Delegation for the Borough today in Wasilla. Education funding, river erosion, transportation infrastructure needs, Talkeetna water & sewer, a regional septic facility, and recreation bonds were among the subjects discussed, but concern over crime in the "Valley" took center stage.
"Our population is totally fed up with crime," said Assembly Member Dan Mayfield of District 5. "Four groups in Big Lake are patrolling the streets at night with guns. I'm concerned either they will get hurt, an innocent person will get hurt or a criminal." Mayfield said his constituents feel that State law (Senate Bill 91 and 54) has deviated from the way we handled crime in the past by not being tough enough. Rep. Cathy Tilton referred to an earlier effort by the Delegation to repeal SB 91, which didn't pass, and urged greater participation.
Assembly Member Randall Kowalke said crime had also moved into his northern district's 18,500 square miles with its 14,000 constituents. "People are frustrated, and we need support," Kowalke said.
Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey said the Borough is considering how best to support police protection for residents. Moosey said one idea is a police service area and contracting with existing police departments. The Mat-Su Borough does not have police powers. Borough Mayor Vern Halter asked what kind of support would local government have at the State? Rep. Mark Neuman said the Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety was already looking at the issue.
Like the Borough on roads, Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle told the Delegation that the city is experiencing the shift of State costs onto the city. He said Wasilla now pays $11,000 per police recruit to the training academy. "It used to be free," Cottle said. He also said Wasilla is taking over two State roads, Lucas and Church roads as well as $15,000/year in other road maintenance.
Sen. Shelley Hughes, Rep. DeLena Johnson, Rep. Tilton, and Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard all urged local government officials to keep the delegation informed on any unfunded mandates and State costs passed onto local government.
Cottle also asked for local control of liquor licenses, remarking that he was fighting to get Costco and Sam's Club here but the few liquor licenses authorized by the State stand in the way of economic development as compared to an unlimited number of marijuana stores possible.
The agenda is attached and the Borough's top State priorities for 2019.
The projects are:
• Port MacKenzie Rail
• Museum Drive Extension (Parks Highway connector)
• Willow Library Replacement and Community Center Upgrades
• West Susitna Roads to Resources (Fish Creek Access)
• Fishery protection
Top photo left to right: Mat-Su Borough Mayor Vern Halter, Manager John Moosey in blue, Deputy Mayor Matthew Beck, Assembly Member George McKee (not visible), Assembly Member Jim Sykes, State Sen. Shelley Hughes, State Rep. DeLena Johnson, State Rep. Cathy Tilton, State Sen. David Wilson, State Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, State Rep. Mark Neuman, State Rep. George Rauscher, State Rep. David Eastman, Assembly Member Ted Leonard in white, Assembly Member Randall Kowalke, Assembly Member Dan Mayfield.