Sleep off facility brings debate

    Juneau City Hall

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Committee of the Whole discussed several issues including the tourism industry, the sleep off center, the impacts from the drought and on-site consumption of marijuana.

    Kirby Day of Princess Cruises said the additional cruise visitors this year will bring over $200 million in passenger spending and create 2,500 jobs.  A meeting is scheduled for April 23 to get citizen comment on Tourism Best Management Practices.

    Day said the industry has done a tremendous job to minimize emissions.  In 2016, he explained, there were zero complaints.  Last year there were 167 complaints.  "That is unacceptable.  I've lived here long enough to remember seeing a ship that seemed to be on fire.  I told the Assembly we would fix this and we did."

    There were nine violations last year.  Fines ranged between $35,000 and $40,000, Assembly Member Loren Jones said.

    Jones said he'd like to see more businesses on South Franklin remain open year round.  "We want a vibrant community that is a great place to live but businesses shutting down after five and half months is not helping."

    Day said it is not easy for these businesses to remain open all year long in a town of 30,000 people.  "I don't know that this program would be very successful to try and convince somebody to open up in the winter."

    Day also discussed shore power needs and if there will be more electric vehicles to serve cruise ships in the future.  He said the cost of electric vehicles remains high, an estimated $800,000 for a 50-passenger motor coach.  "The larger ships need more power but shore power is a viable alternative.  Juneau was the first port in the world to offer shore power.  I don't think it is going away soon.  It's a feather in Juneau's cap and something that will be studied.  Its a great program for us."

    City Manager Rorie Watt said he sent out a letter with questions of the cruise industry about shore power and expects a reply in late April.  He said they will continue to discuss the issue for the next year.

    The Juneau Commission on Sustainability will host a meeting with Cruise Industry Officials on April 18th at 5:30 pm at City Hall.

    The sleep off program at Bartlett Regional Hospital currently serves 24 people per month.  48 other patients are taken home or to a safe place per month.  14 patients are transported to the warming center.  One person went to Lemon Creek Correctional for a 24-hour evaluation.

    Capital City Fire Rescue Chief Rich Etheridge is looking to lease from St. Vincent De Paul's on Teal Street to provide a facility for the sleep off.  Shifts will be staffed 12 hours per day with six full-time employees.  A minimum of an EMT and an emergency trauma technician will be on duty.  The six-member staff will include one full-time supervisor to oversee the program.  The program will operate at night mostly after Capital City Transit service stops for the night.  The initial hours will be from 8 pm until 8 am.  There are six people employed at Bartlett Hospital that would be employed by the CBJ directly.  They are looking for an appropriate vehicle and will not necessarily use CCFR ambulance crews for transports.

    "It seems to be overkill to use an ambulance, and putting them into use for transporting rather than other emergencies," Assembly Member Michele Bonnet-Hale said.

    The estimated cost of the program is $800,000 per year.  They propose to be funding by the liquor tax.  The Rainforest program it would replace would cost $800,000 per year.

    Vice Mayor Maria Gladziszewski questioned the costs of the new program.  She said Bartlett provided a 24-hour per day program for the same amount of money that Capital City Fire Rescue will provide for 12-hours per day.

    Bartlett officials said community demand for the facility has dropped considerably in the past year. 

    Bonnet-Hale said the 911 call is being used as a taxi service.  She requested a program that unites services in the community with substance abuse treatment.  "It could easily become another fragmented program."

    Etheridge said the supervisor would keep in touch with community programs to try and connect these people with the services they need.

    Assembly member Wade Bryson questioned the estimated costs.  He said they handled 288 people last year that cost $800,000.

    The additional staff at CCFR would be trained in fire response over time while employed in these positions providing additional fire response readiness for the department.  "We're not getting a better result, we're spending the same amount of money, it does us no good to reinvent the wheel."

    Bryson said the warming center is being demolished this summer.   He said the community would not see this expenditure as efficient use of funds.

    Etheridge said it could result in fewer 911 calls and lower call volumes for his department.

    Bartlett Hospital desires to move the program off campus to better utilize existing space for enhanced medically based recovery programs.  They also want to eliminate what they see as a potential legal risk of having a non-medical program housed on campus.

    The location would be near a bus line and in a general commercial area in close proximity to the Glacier Station.

    City Manager Rorie Watt said it is not clear to him that a warming center is something the CBJ needs to have this coming winter.

    The committee voted 6-3 to authorize the manager to pursue moving the sleep off program from the hospital to CCFR and budget documents to effectuate the change.

    Assembly Member Loren Jones said he was vehemently opposed to the change.  He said $800,000 was a ridiculous amount and it makes no sense to send people 10 miles out of town to sleep when all the services they need are around the hospital.  "This is a totally wrong approach that is not terribly well thought out.  Many of the people are being taken home to Housing First.  The hospital has been trying for years to get out of the substance abuse business."




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