Story last updated at 4:12 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2002

Police department vacancy in city council's hands

Happenings in Seldovia

Chris Bernard
The Seldovia Police Department is a one-man operation now that deputy John Holley has resigned to work as a civil investigator in Juneau, Chief Andy Anderson said.

"John's wife works in the medical field, and she's been flying back and forth to Anchorage. This way they'll be better able to live their lives together,'' Anderson said.

Anderson said Holley's departure leaves the department understaffed.

"This is a small town, but it's got a large demand," he said. "With one officer, you're not just cutting employees, you're cutting services."

While a decision about whether to replace Holley has yet to be made, Anderson said he fears the city council might decide to leave the position unfilled.

"If they don't replace him, the whole town suffers," said Anderson, who has led the Seldovia police for 23 years. "Every time we've had a one-officer department, we've had an influx in crime. Historically, it's been proven time and time again that when there weren't two officers and you didn't have that patrol, we'd have problems.

"I believe it can be status quo, but we may have to pass the cost on to the public," he said.

City Manager Ken Weaver said the city council was scheduled to discuss the position at its Wednesday meeting this week.

The second officer position was partially funded by a three-year federal grant, which ends this summer, he said.

"My information on the grant is that, unless we have a financial hardship, we're required to fund (the position) for a year after the grant is completed," Weaver said.

However, he said, he has no sense of what the city council might elect to do.

"It's on the agenda, and until the meeting, nothing is set in stone," he said.

Also on tap for the meeting was a look at the fiscal year 2003 city budget; a bid for a new fire truck; consideration of a subdivision plan; a planning commission report on the proposed Nick Elznit Park; and an appointment to the six-member city council to replace Eric Nordenson, who resigned earlier this summer. As of Tuesday, only one applicant -- Stephen Lewis -- had come forward for the post. Under state law, the council's appointee will fill the position until the next election.

The berry season is shaping up to be an excellent one, with acres of laden bushes ripening up around Seldovia Bay, said Rod Hilts, general manager of Seldovia Native Association's Chesloknu Foods.

Chesloknu Foods is actively seeking commercial pickers, and will provide camping for those who need it. Chesloknu, which markets the wild berries, will pay a starting price of $2 a pound for blueberries.

Hilts said there will be a subsistence picking area set aside near town. Pickers are required to obtain a free permit from the Seldovia Village Tribe, an Alaska Native village nonprofit group.

The brushing efforts in many of the tribe's blueberry fields have given the berry bushes an edge over competing vegetation, though the full results of the project likely will not show for another year.

For more information on picking berries, contact Hilts at 234-7898, extension 39.

Chris Bernard is a reporter for the Homer News. Items for this report may be e-mailed to news@homernews.com.

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