Service area board candidates talk Nikiski law enforcement

If Nikiski voters pass Proposition 2 during Tuesday’s election, a service area board will be created along with a Nikiski Law Enforcement Service Area.

The board, made up of five people, would take office immediately following the measure’s passage to start researching ways to either contract protective services for Nikiski from another agency or build up a new police agency. Four of the five seats are uncontested, and most of the candidates have been involved in tackling the issue of crime in Nikiski for a number of years.

Ben Carpenter, owner of Alaskan Leader Solutions, LLC, is on the ballot for seat A, which is a 3-year term. While Carpenter supports limited taxation according to his candidate profile, he said the service area is necessary as additional help from Alaska State Troopers is unlikely. After meeting with trooper representatives to talk about getting more of them assigned to Nikiski, he said in a previous interview with the Clarion that their budget would not allow that.

Currently, Carpenter said he does not favor one of the two service area options over the other. The decision of whether to contract services or create an agency will depend on what the board uncovers when it starts working with those who have more experience with creating a law enforcement agency.

“None of us are law enforcement professionals,” Carpenter said. “So the first thing that I would want us to do is to seek advice from people who have done this before.”

The law enforcement service area would have the same boundaries as the Nikiski Fire Service Area, including an area on the west side of the Cook Inlet. On the issue of how to coordinate with service area residents across the Inlet, Carpenter said the proposition would likely improve services.

“Additional law enforcement powers in Nikiski could be viewed by people across the Inlet as an addition to the troopers.”

Nancy Whiting, a Nikiski resident of 10 years, would assume seat E for a 2-year period should the proposition pass. She agreed that the decision of whether to make a new police agency or contract services from elsewhere will have to be researched thoroughly.

“I like the idea of our own law enforcement, and the only reason I would think that the contract might work better is time and affordability,” she said.

Whiting said that while she lacks formal law enforcement experience, she has made up for it with a commitment to Nikiski and a vested interest in its safety. For her, the additional tax would be worth the results.

“My perspective is that no matter where you live, crime doesn’t generally decrease on its own, and no law enforcement agency or department can really prevent crime,” Whiting said. “All they can do it mitigate some of it, catch perpetrators of it and help with their presence to perhaps prevent or at least postpone. Long term, that’s about what I expect.”

Phil Nash, a lawyer who practices out of Kenai and president of Peninsula Crime Stoppers, is on the ballot for seat C, a 1-year commitment. He said he would prefer to contract services to Nikiski because the ambiguity of the LNG project means the board won’t be able to predict exactly what kinds of services the area will need.

“The primary reason that I favor the contract right now is … that we don’t know even whether the gas line is going to be built let alone when, and so we don’t know if and when we might have an influx of thousands of construction workers,” Nash said. “So it seemed to me that it would be much more cost effective if you … start with sending requests for proposals out to municipal police departments to see if anyone would like to run a contract, because they would be able to set it up much more quickly than we could anyway.”

Communication with areas that would be affected on the west side of the Cook Inlet has been tricky, Nash said.

“There’s been some isolated contact with people who are beyond the end of the road but still on this side … and they were concerned … that they don’t get any services,” he said.

Still, Nash believes getting law enforcement services across the Inlet will be much easier than it has been to provide fire services.

Norm Olson, one of the creators of the Alaska Citizens Militia, is on the ballot for seat D, a 3-year term. He said that while he supports small, local government, going through the Kenai Peninsula Borough to get a law enforcement service area is the best option he sees to crack down on crime.

“We’ve been waiting for a long, long time,” Olson said. “After the proposition failed in 2004, there were promises that an alternative would be found. That was 11 years ago.”

Olson said contracting services at first and then slowly moving to Nikiski’s own agency would provide a smooth transition.

“I like the idea of contracting because it provides a buffer and another layer of responsibility and accountability,” he said.

While he generally doesn’t support big or intrusive government, Olson said the alternatives to a service area that have been presented to him in the past have not been shown to be viable.

The candidate for seat B, a 2-year term, was Ann Dooley-Krogseng. In the wake of her death, at least three Nikiski residents have come forward with the intent to run a write-in campaign for the open spot. At a community meeting held Wednesday in Nikiski to address remaining questions about the proposition, Tim Colbath, Jason Ross and Pete Piccini announced their plans to vie for the final seat.

Tim Colbath, a resident of Nikiski for 18 years and an animal welfare advocate, said his being part of the original Nikiski Community Action Group should be helpful to the board.

“I grant you my main forte is animal welfare, but in so many occasions that enters into human welfare as well,” Colbath said after the meeting. “It seems a natural progression.”

Jason Ross served in the United States Army for five years. He did not become involved in discussion about the law enforcement service area until recently, but has always favored increased police presence in the area, he said.

“I want to be able to help contribute to my community in a way, and I think this is an important issue that needs to be addressed here,” Ross said after the meeting. “I’m willing to take the time.”

Krogseng herself sought out Pete Piccini, a retired sheriff with 23 years of law enforcement experience, and asked him to run for a seat on the service area board. He said declined at the time because he felt he would be content to support her. Now that she is no longer here to make decisions as part of the board, Piccini doesn’t want to leave things up to fate for a second time, he said.

“I think my experience would be a value to the board in what we want to do here,” Piccini said at the meeting.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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