Nikiski residents will again be given the chance to vote for expanded police protection.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday voted to put the option of a Nikiski Police Service Area on the ballot in October.
Dozens of community members attended the assembly meeting to testify on the issue. The vast majority supported their right to chose — though some contested the service area’s boundaries.
The proposed service area would encompass the same boundaries as the Nikiski Fire Service Area, which covers 6,000 square miles, includes multiple industrial complexes and extends to the western shore of Cook Inlet.
A Nikiski community action group met for nearly a year before bringing their proposal to the borough.
To finance the police service area, the proposition would ask Nikiski voters to accept a 1.5 mill increase that would generate $2.2 million. The tax would add about $150 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
Nikiski voters rejected a police service area nearly a decade ago, but a rash of property thefts and what many have called a drug-fueled spike in crime have caused some to push for more police protection in the area.
Nikiski resident Ann Krogseng said she has seen the community’s focus sharpen.
“If nothing else, what has happened in the last nine months is that complacency has gone by the wayside,” she said. “This community is active and involved, they’re talking about solutions.”
Assembly member Blaine Gilman said he had heard from many residents that the unincorporated area should consider becoming a city rather than accept another tax for a service. Current residents already pay for fire service, a community recreation center and a road service with the same type of fee.
Assembly member Brent Johnson said he did not like the idea of taxing communities in hyper-rural areas outside of Nikiski that would likely not benefit from the police protection.
The boundaries of the proposed service area include communities on the west side of Cook Inlet, accessible only by boat or plane, such as Tyonek. It also includes communities on the east side of the inlet that are inaccessible from the road system.
“I think that 100 percent of the people in Tyonek will be opposed to paying for a service that they cannot use,” he said.
Krogseng said the rural areas would likely still benefit from having police protection close by, even if there was still a delay in service.
“This ordinance addresses our needs right now,” she said. “We have an LNG plant coming into our community and this ordinance addresses that issue. Those individuals that would like to continue the conversation about incorporation, I would welcome them to do just that.”
The assembly voted 8-1 to approve putting the measure on the ballot. Assembly member Mako Haggerty cast the lone dissenting vote.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.