PALMER — The Palmer City Council addressed the city’s police department at the July 14 meeting with positive news for the first time during the two-month long scrutiny of perceived biases from PPD following Chief Dwayne Shelton’s administrative leave for insensitive Facebook posts.
City of Palmer Manager John Moosey said that he has been engaging in meetings over the last three weeks with members of the community concerned about bias and discrimination from PPD. Moosey said that he reached an agreement with Alaska State Troopers B Detachment Captain Tony April to review the PPD training for effectiveness. Moosey also met with Mat-Su Health Foundation board member Lisa Wade, who provided emotional testimony at the June 23 meeting and has established an accountability partner within the minority community during ongoing discussions.
“We’ll work on that. We’ve done some but we need to do more and here’s what we’re doing right now, so on Friday I met with Alaska Family Services and they volunteered to assist us with training especially when it comes to the area of sexual assaults. We think it’s very important. They described to me that they have had a good relationship with the PPD but they’re looking to strengthen that and I think confidence in us has been shaken and we’re going to work on that,” said Moosey. “We have made the decisions to go with Trailiant. It’s a trining company that will help us with our bias issues, discrimination and sexual harassment all city employees will be trained ongoing.”
Moosey was also pleased to detail Resolution 20-018 that accepts United States Department of Justice funds to hire a new patrol officer for $125,000 for three years. The city of Palmer currently has 15 full time sworn officers and will match 65 percent of the funds to pay for the new position.
“Adding one additional officer to patrol will allow the Police Department to select one patrol officer and assign them to investigations under the Detective Sgt. This assignment will aid in the investigations of property crimes, sexual assaults, etc. Having a Detective and the Detective Sgt. working together on high profile cases will increase the likelihood of bringing closure to more cases,” reads the council summary statement.
The motion for Resolution 20-018 passed unanimously.
“The focus is going to be with helping on sexual assaults. We understand that we may not be up to snuff in that or not able to focus on that and this grant will help us do so,” said Moosey.
The council again held a Committee on the Whole discussion for Informational Memorandum 20-006 for discussion of a Code of Ethics for the City Council. After discussion the previous discussion that numerous council members were involved with in 2014, the Council reviewed a sample of the Code of Ethics from Belmont, California. The council directed city attorney Michael Gatti to review and cross reference the document and present it to the council in September.
At the beginning of the meeting, Councilwoman Jill Valerius offered a motion to move Ordinance 20-007 from the Consent Agenda to New Business. The ordinance offers a temporary allowance for retail stores to package their goods in single use plastic bags until the state’s Emergency Order for COVID-19 has been lifted.
“I’m curious if anybody has given them permission at this point to use plastic bags and not worry about being in violation of the ordinance,” said Valerius.
Mayor Edna DeVries brought the issue up at the June 23 meeting detailing her discussions with local grocery store managers about a shortage of paper bags.
“There isn’t anybody on the council or contracted employee that can suspend anything that’s in code,” said DeVries.
The ordinance itself could not be discussed after the motion was entertained, as the ordinance was only set for introduction for public hearing at the July 28 meeting. However, despite the lack of legislation lifting the single use plastic bag ban, council members experienced local grocers not in compliance with the existing code.
“When I asked the manager at Fred Meyer why they were giving my plastic bags with my clicklist order, they stated it was because the Mayor said they didn’t have to abide by it. So just for your clarification that is something they are saying and if it’s not true that is definitely something that should be corrected because they are using that as their impetus for giving out plastic bags right now,” said Councilwoman Sabrena Combs.
The motion to introduce Ordinance 20-007 for public hearing on July 28 passed unanimously.
“You are constitutionally and in title 29 and in the code and charter the legislative body and you can’t legislate individually without the group patssing the measure by a majority vote,” said City Attorney Michael Gatti.
Palmer City Clerk Norma Alley detailed to the council the changes in polling locations for this year’s election. Rather than the senior center, city of Palmer voters will cast ballots at either the Mat-Su Borough Assembly chambers or the Mat-Su Borough Gym. Alley said that nominating packets for the two open Council seats opened on July 20 and will close on July 30 at 4 p.m. Ballots this year will include a referendum petition to repeal code pertaining to marijuana businesses within the city of Palmer as signatures were collected and turned in for review by the Clerk. Also possible for inclusion on the ballot this year is a bond to purchase a second blower for the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Moosey said that grant funding may be available but as the city of Palmer is currently under a consent decree with the Department of Environmental Conservation and reported three violations of ammonia levels, a proactive approach would likely please the DEC.
“We’ll be looking at all grant opportunities and loan opportunities but because we’re in a consent decree they need to see that the city of Palmer is on it’s game and they are not ignoring them so essentially we’re going to be taking this to the voters saying we’re trying to find a way not to do this but we’re going to ask you to give us approval to do this so it’s going to be a little wonky,” said Moosey.
Councilwoman Sabrena Combs asked if a city employee was paid overtime wages to drive a float in the Valley Freedom Festival parade on July 4. Moosey said that an employee was paid overtime wages to drive the float. Though the event was not sponsored by the city of Palmer, Moosey said that the city incurred unbudgeted expenditures for the protest in June and the Freedom Fest on July 4.
“I’m going to kind of put together a policy that will come back to city council on how we deal with these items that are not sponsored by the city of Palmer and what resources we do, how much do we charge, how much do we anticipate cost and just get a decision on this. I think the challenge we have right now is trying to be consistent, but there is cost. Both of these events cost us additional money that we did not anticipate,” said Moosey.