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Council Tables Debate Over DPS Structure Until New City Manager Arrives

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Berett Wilber/KUCB
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After months of indecision, the Unalaska City Council has finally reached a consensus over restructuring the Department of Public Safety: They’ve agreed to shelve the matter until a new city manager is hired.

The unanimous decision came Tuesday at the urging of Interim City Manager Nancy Peterson.

“This is going to be a huge undertaking," she told the council. "There will be pain within the organization to do this. It’s not just shifting titles, so I ask that the council have patience.”

Peterson’s recommendation seemed to break through the recent back-and-forth, in which councilors and Public Safety officials have pushed for a conclusion but failed to find common ground.

The questions at the heart of the debate: Should Unalaska’s firefighters have their own department, separate from the police force? Or should both divisions continue living under the consolidated Department of Public Safety?

It's a long-standing issue, and Councilor Roger Rowland said Peterson is right to preach patience.

“I support pulling this for now and letting the new city manager attack it right out of the gate,” he said.

Peterson is working with Fire Chief Arlie Colvin and Public Safety Director Mike Holman to reevaluate the city’s options for the incoming manager. While the decision will take time, she said they understand public concerns about the fire division’s low morale as well as insufficient staffing, training, and funding.

“We hear what the council and community have been saying about the fire division," she said. "We want to support the fire division.”

Mayor Frank Kelty has asked Peterson to provide regular updates on the city’s analysis. The council’s next meeting is Dec. 12.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019.
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