State says Anchorage faces more than $600K in fines for safety violations. City officials say they’ve been addressed.

the corner of the City Hall building
Anchorage City Hall on Dec. 8, 2020 (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The city of Anchorage faces more than $600,000 in fines from the state agency in charge of workplace health and safety, with the potential for tens of thousand more in fines. That’s according to a letter sent to Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration and the Anchorage Assembly last Friday by the Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement Section (AKOSH).

Safety concerns went back to the administrations of Mayors Ethan Berkowitz and Dan Sullivan and ranged from a lack of guardrails in some facilities and workers being exposed to electrical hazards to workplace injuries not being reported on time. 

The letter notes that last year, the city had been labeled a “severe violator” by AKOSH, and had entered an informal settlement with the state to resolve more than two dozen health and safety citations from 2021. The settlement lowered the total amount of fines from $627,637 to $92,233, contingent on the city resolving those issues and hiring a contractor to look at overall workplace safety in Anchorage. 

The state doesn’t believe the city has addressed the citations. During an Assembly worksession Thursday regarding the letter, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance described the issue as concerning.

“This is very alarming and worrisome,” LaFrance said. “I mean, I want people to be safe, and then I also don’t want to be spending money on citations that could’ve been prevented.”

The letter says that if the city doesn’t resolve the issues and hire a contractor, the full fine could be reinstated, plus an up-to-$14,502 fine per day, per citation not addressed.

City attorneys say the city had sent information to the state over the course of the last year detailing how each citation was resolved. Municipal manager Kent Kohlhase told Assembly members that the city was surprised at the letter. 

“We believe that many of the items in the letter have actually been resolved and we are working with the safety managers at various departments to collect that documentation,” Kohlhase said.

Additionally, Kohlhase said the city has hired a contractor to address safety concerns, who began working last week, the same week the letter was sent. 

AKOSH officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

City attorney Sean Halloran said the city is working to compile all documentation that was sent to the state by various departments outlining how the citations were resolved. 

“We’re rounding them all up and making sure… checking off of a list of everything to make sure that we’ve got it all,” he said.

He said that documentation will be provided to the Assembly and made public. Member Meg Zaletel asked that the information be available as early as next week, in part to assure the community that the city is operating safely. 

“We are having significant issues with our municipal workforce, and this doesn’t help us recruit or retain additional workforce,” Zaletel said. “So if it has been taken care of, we want to get this out into the public to reassure folks that the municipality is a safe place to work.”

The Assembly approved a $14,000 contract last month to hire the contractor, though city officials say it could cost a minimum of $60,000 more for the contractor to adequately meet the requirements of the settlement with AKOSH.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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