Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska
CSP

NEW DOWNTOWN MELTS OUT OF THE SNOW

Downtown is sporting new streets and sidewalks, net new businesses, changes of ownership at commercial properties, some good demolition, more visitors and more investment.

Like any place, downtown has its challenges, but an overview of the last two years reveals that downtown is meeting its challenges and moving in the right direction.  Completed and scheduled improvements to downtown’s roads and sidewalks will continue to impress in terms of scale and outcomes.  Though master plans have informed and inspired some of downtown’s recent moves, the last two years brim with spontaneous additions.  You hear all the time that downtown is getting better, and a short look back proves that it is.

Two years ago, Illinois Street was in its second year of construction.  A $24 million purchase of infrastructure, the Illinois Street Project has eased the flow of people and business into downtown.  The Alaska Railroad took the opportunity to raze some probably un-leasable buildings and prepare a large site on Illinois Street for a future, higher use.  Traffic flow was awkward at times, but all businesses in the area survived the road work.  The Co-Op Market opened its doors, as did the Mexican Restaurant El Dorado, Rock Valley Boutique women’s clothing , the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame, LUNCH Café, the home-school supply store Educational Outback, The Parlour Tattoo Studio, and women’s re-sale fashion boutique Jade.

Then in 2014, the Wickersham Street reconstruction project wrapped up.   A tenement on Wendell Avenue was razed by its owner (voluntarily), leaving the property closer to a higher use.  Denali State Bank remodeled their lobby.  The Polaris sculpture was installed in a wedge of green space north of the Chena River, across from the Big I.   A number of commercial properties changed hands, suggesting plans to increase their value.   And once again, new businesses entered downtown, like the Crepery, Alaskana Raven Books, Pacific Rim Consulting, and The Noodle House.   As if on cue, downtown saw 30 percent more visitors from motor coach companies alone.

Over the winter, Garden Island and Big Ray’s each finished major renovations.  Big Ray’s investments greatly improved the streetscape at 2nd and Lacey and demonstrated downtown retailers’ ongoing success at attracting people.   The Fairbanks Children’s Museum chose to locate downtown in the former ACS/Woolworth building and has been attracting families ever since.

This summer the Cushman Complete Street Project will better downtown’s roadways and public spaces.  When work starts in early June and throughout the project, Cushman Street will keep one lane of north-bound traffic, one usable sidewalk the length of Cushman Street and its cross streets will remain open.  In Golden Heart Plaza, a new dock will improve river access.  Summer visitors are expected to be up slightly from last years’ dramatic increase.  If Only . . . a fine store’s Martha is turning 17 years old, a milestone again proving retail’s success downtown.   More businesses will open, like Fairbanks’ first interactive brand space, retail gallery and event venue FairbanksAlaska.com, the Fairbanks Distillery, the antique-and-vintage dealer Blue Door Antiques, and the grant-writing business Working Ink.

The activities you’ve come to expect will continue, as well.  A public art project – the Storm Drain Art competition – will be lead by the Tanana Valley Watershed Association.  The downtown Market Festival Fairbanks will be open daily from noon – 8 pm in Golden Heart Plaza, with a companion “food truck rodeo” just across the river.  There will be outdoor concerts in the Plaza, and more.  And of course, the Midnight Sun Festival and Golden Days will bring waves of community entertainment downtown.

Finally, downtown enjoys services to support its growth.  The Community Service Patrol continues to make downtown’s public spaces safe and welcoming for all to enjoy. (The CSP expanded city-wide a year ago after proving successful at cost-effectively managing the problems of chronic inebriation downtown.) Golden Heart Parking Services (formerly the Parking Authority) writes fewer tickets these days and follows a customer service creed.   ArtScape cares for ever-growing thousands of beautiful flowering plants downtown.

Downtown’s trend lines are in the right directions, especially in measures we’ve waited so long to see:  its roads are getting better, more businesses enter than leave, business investment is generally on the rise, as is visitation.  There really is something for everyone downtown so plan to be a part of it this year.

David van den Berg is executive director of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks.

CSP INTERVIEW IN DOWNTOWN FAIRBANKS

KTVF 11 reporter Tyson Paris-Hansen talks Community Service Patrol with CSP Ambassador William Yost and Fairbanks City Mayor John Eberhart. 

Click here for more videos from downtown Fairbanks!

CSP EXPANDS THANKS TO CITY PARTNERSHIP

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In 2013, the Community Service Patrol took 1,695 publicly inebriated or incapacitated people into protective custody and transported them from downtown to an appropriate point of medical or clinical care, at a cost of $175,000.  Meanwhile, outside of the CSP’s downtown patrol area, the city’s police and fire departments took another roughly 1,400 publicly inebriated or incapacitated people into protective custody for transport, at a cost of approximately $375,000.

Alaska Statute Title 47 grants authority to and requires Alaska’s cities to protect publicly inebriated or incapacitated people.  Faced with a half-million dollar community cost to merely furnish protective custody and transportation to this vulnerable population, Mayor Eberhart decided that additional funding for the CSP was a rational exercise of the city’s authority under Title 47.  So, on April 1, with an additional $75,000 from the city and $25,000 from the Borough, the CSP went city-wide. The newly expanded service adds 1.5 more Ambassadors, for a total of 4.5 Ambassadors, and a second van was brought back into service.  The hours of operation were also expanded to 18 hours/day, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., seven days/week. The expanded area of service now includes the entire City, whereas previously the core downtown area was the only area of coverage.  Additionally, the CSP Ambassadors now have access to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to expand medical assistance abilities and life-saving techniques.

A city-wide CSP can respond to the majority of calls for assistance for publicly inebriated or incapacitated people, wisely using the community’s medical and emergency resources by matching the needs of the client to the appropriate level of medical or clinical care, and significantly reducing the amount of time police and fire personnel spend responding to non-criminal and non-emergent calls.

The Downtown Association of Fairbanks agreed to run a city-wide CSP program for three reasons.  First, the long-running program has been successful at cost-effectively managing a persistent community problem.  Second, city-wide expansion will not erode the CSP’s popular and useful foot patrol presence downtown.  Third, expansion was the best way to extend the CSP into parts of downtown outside its core.

Even with the city and borough’s increased participation, the CSP continues to be a community-funded program.  There were 47 donors in 2013 who supported positive impacts on the Fairbanks community.  First, a vulnerable population has CSP Ambassadors looking out for them to head-off victimization, cold-related injuries and death and to provide ready access to health care and treatment. Second, the CSP’s efforts reduce intimidating behaviors and make downtown’s public spaces more accessible to all citizens of the Borough. Third, CSP has a mandate to seek care for individuals appropriate to their condition and appropriate to the clinical/medical resources available at any given time.  An expanded program will continue to rely on pooling public, corporate, business and individuals’ financial resources.

An accounting of the first months’ city-wide operations will be made to the Fairbanks City Council on May 7 and posted to dowtownfairbanks.com.

VOTING NOW FOR A DOWNTOWN SERVICE AREA

Downtown Fairbanks Aerieal

The city of Fairbanks has put this question to 73 downtown property owners:  “’Should the Local Improvement District for Services established by Ordinance 5898 be implemented?’”

If property owners representing 50.1% of the assessed property value within the Local Improvement District (LID) boundary vote yes, they will assess themselves no more than $120,000 in each of the next two years to fund services that the city does not provide or does not provide at the desired level to keep downtown clean and safe for tenants, employees, and local and visiting clientele.

The Association’s board of directors has reviewed the city’s question, supports the formation of a LID, and has this understanding of this LID:

  • The LID is enacted only if property owners representing 50.1% of the assessed land value cast a vote in favor of the LID;
  • LID assessments will be divided between two services that support a positive business climate:
    • The Community Service Patrol, a foot and van patrol for chronic inebriates and other non-criminal activity as a supplement to the Fairbanks Police Department.   For twelve months ended January, 2013, three CSP Ambassadors operating downtown took 1,694 people into protective custody for transport to an appropriate point of care. The LID assessment would fund a portion of the Community Service Patrol’s operating budget;
    • The Clean Team would clean the sidewalks and community spaces of litter, weeds, human waste, ice pack, and snow to accommodate daily business activity. The LID assessment would fund 100% of the Clean Team’s operating budget;
  • LID assessments will be expended only to benefit properties within the LID boundary;
  • The mayor will form a LID advisory committee of five downtown property owners to develop RFPs for services and to administer the contracts;
  • The assessment cannot exceed $120,000 and could, by a number of circumstances, be less, in which event unused funds would be credited back to the property owners in the same proportion as collected;
  • The LID has an initial term of two years, at which point it can be allowed to lapse or be renewed as-is or with revisions;
  • LID funds need not displace city funds for the Community Service Patrol.

Ballots are due to the city clerk’s office by April 1, 2013.  Please make sure to vote – or ask your landlord to vote.

If you have questions regarding the LID or the position of the Board of Directors, please contact David van den Berg, Executive Director, at (907)452-8676 or dvandenberg@downtownfairbanks.com.

C.S.P. IN THE CAPITAL BUDGET

Interior legislators succeeded in adding a $20,000 appropriation for the Community Service Patrol to the State of Alaska’s Capital budget.  The budget advances to Governor Parnell, who has until May 4 to sign or veto the budget.

Please send a form letter by email to Governor Sean Parnell  to encourage him to sustain the CSP appropriation in the state’s budget.

This first-ever legislative appropriation for the CSP is roughly 12% of the CSP’s annual operating budget.  Perhaps more importantly, state dollars will help support the CSP’s efforts to fulfill a state requirement:  that intoxicated and inebriated people in public places be taken into protective custody and transported to an appropriate point of care.

 

CITY BUDGETS FOR DOWNTOWN SERVICES

The Clean Team that keeps downtown’s sidewalks cleared of various messes and snow in a defined area downtown got a boost in the budget the City Council passed on December 12, 2011.  Without funds to operate, the Clean Team would have dissolved had not the City Council voted unanimously to partially fund the Clean Team for $50,000 in 2012.  The one-time appropriation sponsored by Council member Vivian Stiver comes from the city’s general fund and was moved from the $200,000 the Mayor had requested for abatements.  (The $150,000 remaining for abatements is a sizeable commitment to that use, equaling actual abatement expenditures in 2010 and 2011.)   The City’s 2012 budget also contained a general fund appropriation for the Community Service Patrol.  This was the City’s second $50,000 contribution to the CSP in as many years; funding is expected to continue through 2014 if the CSP is able to match the City’s contribution.  

In a related development, Council member Stiver circulated by hand delivery a draft resolution to form an ad hoc committee to study the formation of a local improvement district downtown to provide funding for the Clean Team and the Community Service Patrol.  The committee would be comprised of four property owners in the downtown area, two business owners in the downtown area, one resident in the downtown area, and one council member to serve as the non-voting chair of the committee. 

A MEASURABLE IMPROVEMENT

Downtowns typically have a variety of needs in the urban core that exceed the level of service envisioned by the City’s charter.   Downtowns typically rely on non-governmental organizations like the Downtown Association of Fairbanks to field programs like the Community Service Patrol (CSP) to sustain a welcoming climate and to serve underserved populations.  The CSP does both – with measurably positive impacts.

The CSP’s mission is to “ensure that all incapacitated people are treated in a fashion where their safety and well-being is ensured” and to “protect and promote downtown Fairbanks”. The CSP operates as a joint foot- and van-patrol in a defined area downtown six days a week, 15 hours a day to keep downtown safe and welcoming, and to take incapacitated or intoxicated individuals into protective custody for transport to an appropriate point of care to protect them from cold-related injuries, death or victimization.

Alaska Statute Title 47, Chapter 37 provides that intoxicated or incapacitated people – “chronic inebriates” – be taken into protective custody and transported to the safety of home or to an appropriate treatment facility.  However, because the vast majority of chronically inebriated people are not engaged in criminal behavior and because law enforcement agencies concentrate on deterring and responding to criminal acts, the needs of a vulnerable population of people “falls through the cracks” to the CSP.

For twelve months ended September 30, 2011, three CSP Ambassadors:

  • transported 1,555 people from the downtown to an appropriate point of care;
  • made these transports on behalf of 261 unique individuals;
  • found 15 individuals with injuries or complaints requiring CSP transport to the hospital;
  • found 12 individuals with injuries or complaints requiring EMS transport to the hospital.

The CSP has a positive impact on downtown’s business climate.  The following table illustrates that the CSP’s “total encounters” with chronically inebriated people has fallen 40% this year to date since 2009, suggesting that the CSP has dampened excessive behavior in downtown’s parks and sidewalks.  That the “total transports” are unchanged shows that the number of people needing protective custody is unfortunately stable.

Project Outcome – Welcoming Downtown 2009 2010 2011 ytd(9 months) % change 2009 – 2011
Total encounters 2528 2065 1507 (40%)
Total transports 1191 1412 1137 (5%)

The CSP creates efficiencies for Fairbanks’ emergency services and medical providers.  Every protective custody transport is one less that the Fairbanks Police Department needs to make. Fairbanks Police Chief Laren Zager has estimated that the CSP does the work of three full time police officers – an annual taxpayer savings of roughly $250,000.

More striking perhaps is the way the CSP has been able to transport chronically inebriated people to appropriate institutional care, which saves community medical resources.  As the graph below illustrates, more of Fairbanks’ chronically inebriated people, many of whom are also homeless and may suffer mental disorders, are being transported to FNA’s Gateway to Recovery Enhanced Detox Center where they can commence medically supervised alcohol withdrawal.  Correspondingly, admissions to the Fairbanks Memorial Emergency Room have declined as that facility is being utilized more for medical visits only.  Steady use of FCC’s 12-hour sleep-off reflects a need for the facility as much as it suggests a lack of alternatives.

Project Outcome – Transport to Appropriate Points of Care 2009 BASELINE 2010 2011 YTD % change2009-2011
Transport to ‘home’ to a consenting adult more 12% 17% 11% (8%)
Transport to Detox more 20% 35% 39% 48%
Transport to Fairbanks Memorial less 43% 27% 23% (47%)
Transport to Fairbanks Correctional Center less 25% 21% 27% 4%
Total transports 1191 1412 1137 (5%)

 

The CSP has an annual budget of approximately $180,000.  The program would not exist as it does without a diverse group of sponsors supporting a community effort to address the problems faced by and presented by chronic inebriates in the Fairbanks community.

CITY DOES IT: $50,000 FOR THE COMMUNITY SERVICE PATROL

On Monday November 22, the Fairbanks City Council voted 6-0 to financially support the operations of the Community Service Patrol with $50,000 per year through 2013.  (News-Miner story and editorial.)  The City’s move punctuates a successful year of bolstering Fairbanks’ response to both the troubles faced by chronically inebriate people and the challenges they present to the Fairbanks community.  Successes downtown in 2010 include:

–          A ‘Housing First’ effort in Fairbanks is progressing;

–          The Alaska Mental Health Trust provided $64,000 to the operations of the CSP;

–          Additional Alaska Mental Health funds also purchased a new van for the CSP;

–          Keystone supporters of the CSP increased their giving in 2010:  Fairbanks Memorial Hospital increased by12% and Doyon Ltd by 33%;

–          The Fairbanks North Star Borough now supports the CSP’s operations, matching the Hospital’s contribution;

–          Discussions have revived among downtown landowners about creating a Downtown Improvement District to help support the operations of the CSP and other supplemental services.

There is much more yet to do.  The ordinance requires a hefty $140,000 match to get the City’s $50,000 contribution to the CSP.  Still, the City’s action does much to ensure that the City can cost-effectively meet the requirements of state law while encouraging others to participate in our community’s response to chronically inebriated people.    One thing you can do right now is thank City Council members Vivian Stiver and John Eberhart for sponosring the ordinance and the whole council for supporting it.

Vivian Stiver                            vstiver@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 347-2102

Chad Roberts                          croberts@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 452-2435

Bernard Gatewood                 bwgatewood@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 978-4723

Jim Matherly                           jmatherly@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 456-6626, Cell 460-1944

Emily Bratcher                        eebratcher@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 460-1658

John Eberhart                          jseberhart@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 452-8251 ext. 3005

Mayor Jerry Cleworth                jcleworth@ci.fairbanks.ak.us 459-6793

CITY STEPPING-UP ON COMMUNITY SERVICE PATROL

The city of Fairbanks is on the cusp of making a four-year commitment to support the operations of the Community Service Patrol.  While acknowledging that the CSP saves the Fairbanks Police Department as much as $250,000 per year by handling non-criminal activity presented by incapacitated persons downtown, city council members also voice support for joining – and encouraging – a community-wide effort to address the problems confronted by and presented by chronically inebriated people.

For ten months ended June 30, 2010, three CSP Ambassadors operating in a defined area downtown initiated and resolved 1,465 encounters with chronically inebriated people. These encounters resulted in:

  • 1,087 transports in the CSP van from the downtown to an ‘appropriate point of care’;
  • Service to 286 unique individuals;
  • 43 individuals relied heavily on CSP transport to points of care (> 6 transports/year);
  • Blood alcohol levels exceeded .300 in 328 of the transports, or 30% (this is nearly 4 times the legal limit for driving while intoxicated);
  • 68 individuals had injuries or complaints requiring CSP transport to the hospital;
  • CSP found 6 individuals with injuries requiring EMS transport to the hospital;
  • 71 individuals were pre-empted from getting inebriated (CSP discarded their alcohol).

Ordinance 5822 is co-sponsored by council members Vivian Stiver and John Eberhart.  It is likely to go for a vote Monday, November 22.  If you support a positive business climate downtown, and if you support a community response for the chronically inebriated people in our community, please contact City Council members and Mayor Jerry Cleworth.

Vivian Stiver                         vstiver@ci.fairbanks.ak.us                  347-2102

Chad Roberts                        croberts@ci.fairbanks.ak.us               452-2435

Bernard Gatewood             bwgatewood@ci.fairbanks.ak.us        978-4723

Jim Matherly                         jmatherly@ci.fairbanks.ak.us             456-6626, Cell 460-1944 

Emily Bratcher                      eebratcher@ci.fairbanks.ak.us           460-1658

John Eberhart                        jseberhart@ci.fairbanks.ak.us            452-8251 ext. 3005

Mayor Jerry Cleworth         jcleworth@ci.fairbanks.ak.us             459-6793

HOUSING FIRST REQUIRES A SPONSOR

Any effort to bring permanent housing to Fairbanks’ chronically inebriated people will require a sponsor agency – not a loose consortium of players.  That was the “aha” upshot from a field trip to tour Seattle’s 1811 Eastlake, the first housing project in America to house the highest consumers of emergency services without making that housing a condition of clinical success – that is, the residents at 1811 Eastlake don’t have to stop drinking. 

It’s a path-of-least-resistance approach with fans in Fairbanks once you consider that we pay to keep chronically inebriated people ON the streets with highly trained police, emergency personnel, and the emergency room.  It is cheaper, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, to house the most down-and-out chronic inebriates. 

The field trip was paid for by the Alaska Mental Health Trust.  The Fairbanks delegation joined an Anchorage delegation seeking answers to concerns about the housing first project proposed in Anchorage’s Fairview neighborhood. 

 Author’s note:  I believe Fairview’s concerns about a “party house” had good answers:

  1. A facility’s ability to be a good neighbor relies on skilled management that engages with the surrounding community; 
  2. “Aggressive engagement”  by the facility staff and time-tested addendums to their lease contract both protect residents from victimization and furnish strong levers to influence positive behavior in the neighborhood;
  3. The population at Eastlake is medically fragile from years of substance abuse;
  4. Residents tend to isolate in their room rather than carouse.   

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Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska