Fire chief calls for welfare checks as assembly extends emergency declaration

Friday, December 21, 2018 - 15:58
  • Anchorage Assemblymembers Amy Demboski, of Chugiak, and Fred Dyson, of Eagle River, talk following a special meeting of the assembly to extend the mayor’s disaster declaration on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 in Anchorage. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)
  • Members of the Anchorage Assembly held a special meeting on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 to extend the mayor’s disaster declaration until Tuesday in the wake of Friday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)
  • Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz, center, and municipal manager Bill Falsey, left, listen to assemblymember Amy Demboski following a special assembly meeting held Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 in Anchorage. The assembly voted to extend the mayor’s emergency declaration until Tuesday. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)

Now that the dust is settling from Friday’s big shaker, the Anchorage fire chief wants people to check on their neighbors.

“I’m asking you guys to work through your community councils to do neighborhood welfare checks,” chief Jodie Hettrick asked Anchorage Assembly members during an emergency meeting of the assembly held Sunday at the Municipality of Anchorage’s emergency operations center in downtown Anchorage.

Hettrick said the municipality came through the earthquake remarkably well, but stressed that people can help by doing a “status check” on neighbors and homes.

“We really need that to happen,” she said.

The assembly voted unanimously to extend a declaration of civil emergency by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz through Tuesday. The mayor asked the assembly for the extention in order to give emergency responders and engineers more time to repair damage and evaluate what resources may still be needed from the state and federal government.

Berkowitz took the opportunity to thank the muni’s personnel for their response to the quake.

“We owe them a debt of gratitude,” he said.

Assemblymember John Weddleton inquired about the total impact on the municipal budget from the earthquake response, but municipal manager Bill Falsey said it was still too early to give an exact figure because it’s unknown how much funding will be provided by the federal government. Falsey said he’ll have a better handle on the financial situation at Tuesday’s regular assembly meeting.

Assemblymembers Suzanne LaFrance of South Anchorage and Amy Demboski of Chugiak both said they’d like the muncipality to offer a free dump day.

“That would be somehting that would be very beneficial to our community,” she said.

On Sunday evening, Falsey said both the Anchorage Regional Landfill and the central transfer station in Anchorage will be free to the public through Dec. 8. He urged people to be patient and take their time in order to keep the facilities from being overwhelmed.

“There is no rush,” he said.

Demboski also took the opportunity to inform the assembly she’ll officially go to work for Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy when the governor is sworn in Monday and that she’d declare a vacancy Tuesday. She also offered to be a conduit for information between the muni and the governor’s office once she begins work as Dunleavy’s deputy chief of staff.

“You have my cell phone number,” Demboski told her soon-to-be-former colleagues.

After the meeting, Demboski said she’s been busy over the past couple days checking on her constituents and surveying damage in Chugiak. The second-term assemblymember and former Chugiak Community Council president said she plans to continue working in her role on the assembly right up until the new governor takes office.

“My job as an assemblymember doesn’t stop until the moment it stops,” she said.

She said she expects applications will start coming in Wednesday, and that the assembly will appoint a member to fill her seat quickly.

“My expectation is it will not be open very long,” she said.

Demboski said her familiarity with municipal issues will be extremely helpful in her new role within the Dunleavy administration.

“I’m going to be in direct contact to the Anchorage area right from the governor’s office,” she said.

Demboski said her home was undamaged by the quake, though she did have plenty of things fall off the walls.

“I think the worst damage was emotionally to my dog,” she said.

Assemblymember Fred Dyson said his Eagle River home was also unscathed, and the retired engineer quoted the Book of Matthew to describe his philosophy on homebuilding.

“A wise man built his house on the rock,” Dyson said.

Though Chugiak-Eagle River was among the hardest hit areas by the quake, both assemblymembers said they were proud of how the community rolled with the event. Dyson pointed out that many of his constituents are retired or in the military.

“Those people are pretty resilient,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]

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