Story last updated at 4:44 p.m. Thursday, October 17, 2002

Seldovia faces decision on emergency services
by Hal Spence
Morris News Service-AK

Facing a chronic budget crunch, city officials in Seldovia are exploring formation of service areas that could help provide new revenue to pay for fire, medical emergency and police services extended beyond the city limits.

The city's budget woes are having an impact on the ability of the police department to function, Seldovia Police Chief Andy Anderson said. Roughly 20 to 25 percent of the incidents to which they respond are outside city limits.

The city's $360,000 general fund budget includes about $106,000 for police. The state compensates the department for aiding Alaska State Troopers and for services rendered outside the city under terms of a special services contract.

But that contract only pays Seldovia about $16,700 a year, a figure that hasn't changed since 1994, Anderson said.

"That doesn't take in the hours and patrols," he said.

Meanwhile, cost cutting by the city has eliminated a police clerical position and made a deputy's position a half-time job during the winter.

Outgoing City Manager Ken Weaver said the city also spends about $45,000 a year on the Seldovia Ambulance and Fire Department, the city arm of fire and emergency services. The city also provides a part-time fire administrator position for 15 hours per week.

A volunteer nonprofit called Seldovia Volunteer Fire and Rescue handles fire fighting and other functions.

Until recently, the Seldovia Village Tribe provided an EMS coordinator, but that position currently is empty.

Roughly 8 percent of the fire and EMS calls in 2000 were outside the city. The service averages about 20,000 volunteer hours a year, said Sue Hecks, who just ended a term as mayor.

The Seldovia City Council has not gone as far as to petition the Kenai Peninsula Borough for a new service area, but members of the council did meet with borough officials late last month to go over the procedures necessary to get that ball rolling.

Hecks acknowledged that the city's struggling budget was the impetus behind exploring options such as service areas. She and members of the council met with borough attorney Colette Thompson and Ed Oberts, assistant to Mayor Dale Bagley, Sept. 25 in Seldovia and discussed aspects of service area formation.

The council, however, deferred any action until the new mayor and new council members were seated after the Oct. 1 election.

--Hal Spence is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion