Symons resigns from Borough Assembly
A proposed resolution to support the development of new hatcheries in Wrangell and Petersburg – and the resignation of a member of the assembly were the main topics of discussion at the July 24 regular meeting of the Borough Assembly.
Mike Symons, who has held Seat F on the assembly since 2010, formally tendered his resignation from the assembly after being tapped as the new General Manager and News Director at KSTK FM.
Symons said his resignation was spurred on by the nature of his position as the head of the news department at the station.
“I’m resigning from the borough with some sadness,” Symons said from the podium, rather than his usual assembly member seat. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with all of you and also work for the community of Wrangell. Ultimately, I have taken on a new job as General Manager at KSTK, and in (that) position I oversee the newsroom. So, it wouldn’t be good for me as a news director to have our newsroom report on borough issues with me being on the assembly.”
Symons seat will come up as an open, unexpired seat in the October general election.
The assembly also passed a joint resolution with the City of Petersburg to support the development of new hatcheries and releases in what Mayor Jeremy Maxand said could be a way to help increase the number of fish available for commercial and sport fishing.
“The (resolution) is a follow-up to the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, at which Dave Hambleton discussed Trident’s support for the development of a new hatchery, and the meeting with Governor Parnell in Wrangell at which Chris Guggenbickler expressed the need to make the ‘pie’ of available fish larger,” Maxand stated in a memo to the assembly.
Assembly member Bill Privett said he supports the resolution.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Privett said. “There is always controversy when it comes to these kinds to things when the state waits, and they have their thoughts, but I think it’s a great opportunity for this community to try to do something within our world and area.”
Privett added that the return he has seen in commercial fishing over recent weeks has been enough to convince him of the need for a hatchery plan.
“Anybody who has been involved in the last two weeks with what’s going on in Anita Bay, or the seiners in town, or the longliners, you cannot imagine the volume of fish being caught or the dollars being exchanged,” he said. “It’s just been tremendous. If we can help offset the natural stocks by some more enhancement, I think it’s just a win-win-win.”
Petersburg ratified their version of the resolution at their July 16 meeting. Trident’s chief legal counsel, Joe Plesha, also provided a letter of support for the development of new hatcheries in the region.
“The goal is to send a joint letter from the City of Petersburg and Borough of Wrangell, along with the resolution and additional letters of support, to Governor Parnell sometime in August,” Maxand added.
In his report to the assembly, Borough Manager Tim Rooney reiterated the possible impacts of proposed reduction of the Wrangell sales tax rate down to 5.5 percent.
“(The) 7 percent sales tax is estimated to bring in $2,350,000 in (fiscal year) 2012-13,) Rooney states. “Reducing the sales tax to 5.5 percent would reduce this amount to $1,846,428. This is a reduction of $503,572.”
According to Rooney, the general fund sales tax revenue would also drop from $1,598,000 to $1,255,571 – a reduction of $342,429.
“To balance the general fund under the above scenario, spending would need to be reduced 8.7 percent,” Rooney added.
The proposal to reduce the tax rate is being spearheaded by Wrangell residents Ernie Christian and Rhonda Dawson. Their application to place the initiative before voters is currently under review by the borough and its attorney.
Rooney also added an updated list regarding what could change if the electorate of the borough approves the proposal.
“As your administrator, my recommendations would be to reduce what the city contributes to non-essential community services immediately,” Rooney stated. “This means funding for (services) like the Chamber of Commerce ($25,000), KSTK ($9,200), Wrangell Senior Program ($15,000), July 4th Fireworks ($4,000), Health Fair ($3,000) and US Customs Utilities ($1,400) would stop.”
Rooney added other programs, such as the pool and recreation facilities, library, and Parks and Recreation Department facilities would feel a pinch as well.
“If the above initiative petition is put forward and passed by the voters, it is my opinion that it would be disastrous for our community,” Rooney stated.
The status of the Wrangell Medical Center redevelopment was also in Rooney’s report – and he stated that USDA is still maintaining involvement in the funding of the project, though with a wait-and-see approach after a phone conversation with Jim Nordlund, the department’s Alaska State Director of Rural Development.
“Two things became clear as a result of the phone call,” Rooney stated. “The first, that USDA will be doing nothing regarding the project loan until the new WMC board is elected and seated. The second is that although the source of the loan funding may change from ARRA funds, the USDA remains committed and excited about the project.”
Rooney also informed the assembly that the Wrangell Museum welcomed 4,717 visitors, which was 836 than in 2011. The visitors for 2011-12 generated $13,600 in revenue for the borough, and the gift shop earned $76,592.35 in revenue.
“The WCA has been kind enough to supply Darien Meissner to act as an interpreter for the museum during the summer,” Rooney added. “Darien will be in the gallery on days when a cruise ship is docked.”
The assembly also voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to appoint assembly members Don McConachie, David Jack and Wilma Stokes to a canvass board for the August 21 WMC board special election.
The next meeting of the assembly is scheduled for Aug. 28 for certification of the results of the special election.