Birchwood council talks water, public safety issues

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 15:00
  • The sun lights up clouds above Birchwood in this photo taken from Beach Lake Road on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

The Birchwood Community Council (BCC) met on Wednesday, Jan. 10, to discuss a broad range of issues impacting the community and to hear presentations from subject experts. Mark Schimscheimer of Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility (AWWU), detective Jack Carson of the Anchorage Police Department and Clifton Dalton of the Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department offered insight into pressing local matters.

Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility

The Anchorage Assembly passed two resolutions and an ordinance in December that allows AWWU to determine the best route for constructing a transmission pipeline and estimate the cost of the project. The pipeline would service over 1,500 single-family homes that Eklutna, Inc. intends to build on its property near to the North Eagle River Glenn Highway exit. After the assessment, property owners impacted by the pipeline will vote to approve the undertaking. If at least 51 percent of property owners are in favor, the plan will proceed.

Mark Schimscheimer, planning manager for AWWU, attended the meeting to answer questions about the project and to express his eagerness to continue cooperating with BCC. The council has taken an active role in the project, forming a task force that opposed the proposed water pipeline.

Schimscheimer assured attendees that homeowners will not pay for the pipeline unless they connect to it — something that’s not likely due to the large size of the transmission line. The recent ordinance assured local homeowners they would not be charged for the pipeline and that a note would be put on the deeds of their properties guaranteeing they will not be charged unless they connect to it.

Schimscheimer intends to work closely with Birchwood residents to ensure the pipeline has minimum repercussions for the local community, he said.

“Our goal is in the July time frame to be back at the assembly, after we have balloted, to see if they will turn this into a district,” he said.

Anchorage Police Department

Detective Carson discussed recent changes in APD that impact the community and its recent crime-fighting efforts.

Carson explained to attendees that communication between APD and community councils will improve once officers receive work cell phones. If officers use personal phones to communicate with councils, their phones become vulnerable to being used as evidence in court. Once the department acquires the phones, officers will be able to respond faster to local partners and community councils.

“We’re also looking at assigning officers more permanently in areas for longer periods of time instead of shuffling them around every day so they [officers] can develop more relationships with the people they server versus bouncing them around,” he said.

APD has also created specialized units that fulfill tasks such as searching for offenders with arrest warrants and seizing drugs. He said the new units have made more than 70 felony arrests in two months and seized over $1 million worth of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana. He said the money seized will be used for more drug investigations.

Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue

Clifton Dalton, CVFRD’s assistant chief, spoke about his department’s efforts in 2017. Dalton said 2017 was the department’s busiest year since its founding, with 999 responses. Nearly 100 volunteers worked 51,500 hours in responding to emergencies.

BCC vice chair Debbie Ossiander emphasized community councils’ importance because their members serve on various city boards and commissions.

“In Chugiak and Eagle River, we make the decisions about what goes on in our parks, our road service and road maintenance,” she said. “In Chugiak, we even have our own fire department. Citizen involvement is important and the community councils are a good avenue for people to get their voices heard.”

The council’s next meeting will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, February 14 at the Beach Lake Chalet (17611 S. Birchwood Loop Road).

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