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McConachie resigns as Mayor of Wrangell


Mayor Don McConachie

Citing health concerns and a recent 11-day medical trip to Seattle, Wrangell Mayor Don McConachie relinquished his gavel last Thursday night as he resigned from his position on the Borough Assembly.

In a letter written by McConachie that he read to the other members of the Assembly he explained his reasoning behind leaving his post in city government.

“Since 1998 it has been my privilege to serve on the Assembly of the City and Borough of Wrangell, Alaska. Many things have happened during those years: some rewarding, some not so much. I can say I’ve learned something from each of them,” he said, continuing. “Well, I have my final blow. I was medevac’d to Seattle and spent eleven days away from home. This, as most of you know, is not my first time, but I would prefer it be my last time.”

With McConachie’s resignation, Vice Mayor Bill Privett will chair at least the next two Assembly meetings as the Borough’s head of government. Within the next month, according to Borough Clerk Kim Flores, the Assembly will act to name a new mayor.

“The appointment to the position of mayor, to fill the unexpired term ending October of 2013, would be filled by letters of interest,” she said. “The position would then be appointed by the remaining members of the Borough Assembly.”

McConachie was elected by the slimmest of margins last year when he defeated fellow Assembly member David Jack by a mere two votes.

In other business, a new ordinance passed by the Wrangell Borough Assembly will codify land use in outlying areas – and alters some definitions and language regarding zoning in some of the borough’s most remote areas.

The change to Title 20 of the Wrangell Municipal Code includes an expansive change and the addition of a new section dealing with the Remote Residential Mixed Use zone, and would include Meyers Chuck, Union Bay, Thom’s Place, Olive Cove and Wrangell Island East.

“The remote residential mixed-use (RMU) district is intended to provide for very low impact land and water uses and activities in remote areas of the borough,” a part of the new language of the section reads. “Such areas are not suitable or desirable for intensive development due to their lack of a developed road system, distance from established utility service areas, existing large lot development, and existing rural and subsistence lifestyles.”

The ordinance change includes some of the remote areas of the Wrangell Island East back channel – and calls for the area to be maintained for residential dwellings, cabins, cottage businesses, and subsistence living as well. Small-scale commercial uses that complement a quiet rural lifestyle can be allowed as long as they “contribute to the overall quality of life in Wrangell Island East.”

The Assembly passed the new ordinance after a public hearing earlier in the evening.

A new member of the Wrangell Economic Development Committee was named during the meeting, with Wrangell resident Daniel Blake being tapped to fill a seat until 2015.

In Borough Manager Tim Rooney’s report to the Assembly, he updated them on the current status of the stalled Wrangell Medical Center replacement project.

“Several meetings have been conducted within the last two weeks regarding the Hospital Replacement Project,” Rooney states. “In addition to meeting with Innovative Capital – the firm under contract with Wrangell Medical Center to perform financial services relating to the securing of the loan, staff of both the City and Borough of Wrangell and WMC, as well as Mr. Blasco, participated in a meeting with the State of Alaska regarding the Certificate of Need. Currently, the number one priority relating to this project is the loan reapplication process that must be completed through the USDA.”

According to Rooney, the process has begun moving forward once again, with the next step to come early next month.

“On Friday, January 18, 2013, WMC, City and Borough of Wrangell, and Innovative Capital personnel participated in a teleconference with Mr. Keith Perkins of the USDA,” Rooney added. “On the call, Mr. Perkins reviewed the application process steps that must be completed, forms that needed to be adjusted, and questions on behalf of the USDA. A checklist of items that need to be submitted, with the understanding that many of those items only need minor changes while others need more substantial updates was discussed and will be developed by Mr. Perkins. The next scheduled phone call is Friday, February 1, 2013.”

Rooney also addressed the upcoming retirement of Wrangell Parks and Recreation Department director Kim Covalt in May – and gave kudos to him for his time in service to the Borough.

“I will begin the process of advertising for Mr. Covalt’s replacement on or about January 31, 2013 and will be forming a committee of myself and two other individuals to review all applications received and develop an interview process for this important position,” Rooney stated. “Mr. Covalt’s institutional knowledge of the Parks Department, his educational background in Recreational Facility Management, and his passion for the community of Wrangell will be extremely difficult to replace.”

The Assembly also approved the bid for the replacement of Castle Mountain Entertainment’s 35-millimeter film projector with a digital model that will reduce costs and allow Wrangellites to see first-run movies – a first for the Borough.

The next meeting of the Assembly is set for Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.


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