PALMER — Mat-Su Borough Mayor Vern Halter made two announcements during the Thursday morning press conference in the Mat-Su Assembly chambers to address issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Halter announced what was not a surprise, that he was extending closures of pools, libraries and facilities throughout the borough until May 30 and said that he expected to extend the closures at a later date. At the end of the press conference, Halter made a surprising announcement about Borough Manager John Moosey.
“This is not an April fools joke by any means but our borough manager John Moosey who’s standing over right over here to my right has accepted a job as the manager of the city of Palmer,” said Halter. “Congratulations. First of all Mr. Moosey, I will miss you dearly so I just wanted you to know that and this is not an April fools joke, he is accepting the job over there.”
Moosey was one of five candidates interviewed for the job that will be left vacant by current Palmer City Manager Nathan Wallace who has accepted a job as the Deputy State Director for the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming. Wallace announced his resignation in February and will work until the end of May, when Assistant Borough Manager George Hays will take over as interim manager for Moosey.
Prior to the announcement of Moosey’s departure as manager, Halter brought up borough Department of Emergency Services Director Ken Barkley to discuss how emergency services in the Valley are being conducted while social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
“Our EMS, they’re doing a great job but they’re overwhelmed. They’re keeping up with the calls but they’re also practicing social distancing,” said Barkley. “The ones that are making that initial contact will be in full PPE, the ones not making that initial contact will not be in full PPE unless again, they are asked to come into the house or to assist on a motor vehicle accident.”
Barkley said that MATCOM dispatched Mat-Su Borough EMS on 195 calls last week, three of which were structure fires. Barkley said that one such structure fire was an eight-plex with people trapped on the second floor. Crews were able to rescue all of the people trapped and three were transported to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center for smoke inhalation.
A total of four testing operations are currently taking patients. Along with MSRMC and Capstone on Seward-Meridian Parkway, the Mat-Su Urgent Care on Crusey Street and on Lake Lucille have been stood up to provide testing. Residents can drive up and get screened at the Crusey Street Urgent Care. Barkley said that the many groups that have volunteered to help in making masks, gowns and face shields can find specifications on how to do so on matsugov.helpershub.
“Honor that we have an intense several weeks, if not months coming in front of us. That’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take patience and you can see it’s working. If the Federal statistics are correct, the states that are doing what we’re talking about here today, they’re coming out, they’re lowering the curve and that’s what we probably have to continue to do for some period of time into the future and I hope that time is quick,” said Halter.
Halter congratulated Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink for her work in leading the state’s response to coronavirus as Alaska is listed as one of the top five states for management of COVID 19. Halter pontificated after he was asked about the borough’s possibility to seek first class powers which would include police and health powers that the borough does not have currently. Halter said that he would welcome the discussion in front of the assembly.
“I think we have to be vigilant. I think we have to do more in social distancing. I think the outcome will prove results, just like it does in the Federal government. If you follow all the social distancing you could reduce the curve,” said Halter.
The assembly will meet with virtual resources on April 7.
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