PALMER — The Palmer City Council discussed public safety as well as the upcoming process of the state redistricting board and how that may affect representation of Palmer residents in the state Legislature.
The council unanimously passed AM 21-019 at their meeting on March 23 to enter into a mutual aid agreement with the Municipality of Anchorage for fire and emergency services that could require response from Anchorage Fire Department or Palmer Fire and Rescue personnel.
“We have both received and given the Anchorage Fire Department and their associated fire departments like Chugiak assistance and there’s been no rules in place how that engages any protections in place or any way to compensate if necessary, and so I spoke with the chief of Anchorage and she believes that we should have one in place as well. I can think of a hazardous materials incident that was at the post office here in town that we utilized the Anchorage hazmat team as well as providing assistance to Chugiak, so this is really formalizing and putting in place some protections,” said Palmer Fire and Rescue Chief Chad Cameron. “There is no financial impact.”
The mutual aid agreement permits Palmer Fire and Rescue and AFD to provide personnel and apparatus’ in times of crisis. Currently, Palmer has mutual aid agreements with multiple Mat-Su Borough fire service areas.
“The mutual aid agreement is basically the same as most of the mutual aid agreements we have with other departments and they’re pretty common throughout the state so I think the public safety officials have a good handle on how they work and the chief indicated that there were some responses from Anchorage to assist us that were helpful and based on what the chief just presented if there wasn’t a formal agreement in place then it’s probably a good idea to do that,” said City Attorney Michael Gatti.
Palmer Police Department Commander Shane LaCroix introduced the newest PPD officer at the meeting.
“Not only are we now fully staffed, but we are fully staffed with everybody fully trained and out on the road,” said LaCroix.
Palmer Clerk Norma Alley noted during her report that the redistricting board will begin meeting this summer to begin the process of reapportionment for the 40 house districts across the state of Alaska. While the redistricting board will not receive Census data to begin this process until September, Manager John Moosey said that he had seen an estimate of 5,997 in Palmer, noting that the state’s population as a whole had dipped but the Valley population had increased since the last census.
“Right now, we the whole city of Palmer has the one representative and that representative in the house represents all of Palmer so there could be a decision by the redistricting board say to you know, have the redistricting line go down the Glenn Highway or down Alaska Street or something where we would end up being represented by two people,” said Mayor Edna DeVries.
Alley asked the council for their position on whether or not to draft a letter to the redistricting board with their wishes. After initial hesitation, DeVries’ comments about singular representation in Juneau sparked discussion amongst members of the council.
“Thinking about having to interact with when we interact with our state representatives, it really would make sense to me that we really consider crafting a resolution,” said Councilwoman Dr. Jill Valerius. “We’d really like Palmer not to be split.”
Alley mentioned the most recent redistricting change that had separated portions of Wasilla into different house districts. Currently, Palmer is represented by Senator Shelley Hughes in Senate seat F and former Palmer Mayor Representative DeLena Johnson in House District 11.
“If it was to be redistricted so that a portion of the city would be having two representatives in the house, having two people carry the voices of the citizens of Palmer wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing though either, so just keep that in the back of our mind as we kind of go through this process,” said Councilman Richard Best.
Manager Moosey also noted that pictures of Palmer High School graduates will be hung as banners on light poles again this May. The council will hear a presentation from Alaska Waste on recycling at their meeting on April 13 and members of the council have begun the process of signing and returning their codes of conduct passed by the council earlier this spring after nearly a year-long process.
Following a Federal consent decree, the Palmer Wastewater Treatment Plant is required to install two secondary clarifiers. Voters approved in October a ballot measure to permit Moosey to apply for an Alaska Clean Water Fund loan not to exceed $8,052,000 for the clarifiers.
“This past Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved a feasibility study on septage that is going to take into account can they partner with the city of Palmer at our wastewater treatment plant,” said Moosey. “Please note that this is 100 percent cost borne by the Mat-Su Borough and we still have the right to veto any actions.”
Resolution 21-011 passed unanimously. The council will meet again on April 13 at 7 p.m.