Mat-Su residents to vote on adding local police officers

Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents will vote this fall on whether the borough should consider doing its own policing.

The Borough Assembly voted last week to put the question of whether the borough should look into providing police services on the Oct. 2nd ballot. The borough cites rising crime in the region and a decline in services from the state.

Ideas to solve what some have described as a crisis ranged from expanding the city police departments’ service areas to giving the borough policing responsibilities — possibly even something like a sheriff’s department. Other ideas include contracting with the city police departments or the state to provide more State Troopers.

Borough officials – and language in the advisory question itself – acknowledge adding police powers would require higher taxes for police service areas.

Assemblyman George McKee has opposed the idea of putting the question to voters. McKee said at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting that he and others want the state to, “do their job” of providing law enforcement to the borough.

McKee says the advisory vote will create an expectation that the borough can deal with crime effectively.

“We are a rural area. a policeman doesn’t walk a beat here,” McKee said. “A policeman who goes by your house at 55 mph, once a week, doesn’t do a blinkin’ thing about stopping crime.”

Despite objections by McKee and Assemblyman Randall Kowalke, the measure passed 5 to 2. Borough Mayor Vern Halter said he did not support it but said he would not veto the measure.

The borough election is still set for October 2nd. But last week, the borough clerk certified a ballot initiative that aims to change that.

Voters will also be deciding whether to move the borough’s elections from the first Tuesday in October to the first Tuesday in November. That’s when statewide general elections are held and turnout is generally greater.