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Council Stands By Decision To Split DPS

Berett Wilber/KUCB

The City Council is sticking with its decision to split the Unalaska Department of Public Safety.

The split creates two new standalone departments: one for fire and emergency medical services, and another for police, corrections, and dispatch.

The legislation also retires the position of public safety director/police chief for one police chief and one fire chief – both responsible for running their own departments and both reporting to the city manager.

But Thursday, Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson requested the council reevaluate.

"I feel this whole thing is motivated by personal agendas and lacks any consideration and moral obligation to the community and how the tax payer's money is spent," Robinson said. "If it such a great thing for the community, then by all means go for it. But the big question is: why are we afraid to develop a plan ahead of time and understand the cost?"

While Robinson voted to pass the ordinance on Dec. 11, on Thursday he compared the council's decision to move forward with the split to President Trump's administration.

"I liken it to the current administration pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan with zero plan," Robinson said.

Councilor Shari Coleman joined Robinson in requesting the council delay a decision until there is a cost estimate and a plan for the project.

"We would never ever look at anything else in this direction. Why are we doing this now?" Coleman said. "I just beckon everybody here: if this is the direction the majority of the council wants to go, I'm still in my area because my questions haven't been answered. What is the hurry? Let's look at proposed budgets. Let's look at the fiscal year and plan for it."

Coleman asked City Manager Thomas E. Thomas for a cost estimate at the meeting, but he did not provide one. That doesn't worry Mayor Frank Kelty. He said he's confident the split will not exceed the current FY2019 budget.

"I'm not concerned about it," Kelty said. "The big cost is [going to be] when we see the results of that survey of that facility and what it is going to cost to improve it, or tear it down and build a new facility. That's where we’re going to see major costs."

The special session lasted less than 13 minutes with Robinson's motion to reconsider failing, 4-2.

The City Council next meets on Jan. 8, 2019.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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