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Assembly votes against resolution asking SEAPA to cover Tyee costs


Brian O'Connor

Wrangell Borough Clerk Kim Lane swears in appointed District E Assemblywoman Julie Decker during the Borough Council meeting Tuesday night.

The borough assembly Tuesday night voted 4-2 against a resolution asking the Southeast Alaska Power Authority to pay the full cost of operating the Tyee Hydroelectric Plant.

However, at least one council member voted against the measure only because they felt more time and preparation were needed before putting the request to SEAPA.

“I’m going to be voting no, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” said newly minted assemblywoman Julie Decker.

Decker’s remarks echoed concerns expressed by Mayor David Jack, who said he supported the voice of Wrangell citizens.

“I don’t think this gives them that voice,” he said. “I would feel more comfortable if this was put on the agenda for the next meeting.”

The motion and vote came after a joint workshop session with members of the Petersburg Borough Assembly earlier in the day to discuss the plight of the Thomas Bay Power Authority. A May 6 vote by the Petersburg council left Wrangell as the sole municipality funding the TBPA and responsible for the $55,000, six-month operating cost of the TBPA labeled as “non-net billable.”

The resolution instructed board member Brian Ashton to ask SEAPA to pay the full cost of the operation of Tyee Hydroelectric, including the non-net billable portion. A second sentence instructs the borough manager to deduct the operating and maintenance expenses from the monthly power purchases from SEAPA if the authority board doesn’t approve the full expense.

The SEAPA debate was on the minds of the council’s lone official public speaker, Warren Edgley.

“You gotta take control of SEAPA,” he said. “They’re not regulated by anyone. Apparently, SEAPA has no limit on what they can do with the rates.”

The failed resolution, or one similar in tone, will appear on the council’s next agenda, and seemed likely to garner at least one additional vote.

The vote followed a brief procedural boondoggle. Assemblyman James Stough originally introduced the resolution under a pre-existing agenda item after amending that item earlier in the meeting. After consulting town code, Mayor David Jack allowed the new item to go forward as a separate motion from the original item.

“Are we all thoroughly confused yet?” he quipped.

During the procedural debate, an audience member pointed out that Assemblyman Ernie Christian had a potential conflict of interest. His wife, Rhonda Christian is the TBPA office manager and secretary to the TBPA board. Christian ultimately withheld his vote.

Stough said he put forward the resolution in order to recoup ongoing financial costs of running the TBPA and limit financial harm to the city.

“Every day that we do this and don’t take action, it’s costing the city and the borough money,” he said.

The amendment was originally order to an agenda item asking the SEAPA board to remove Ashton from office.

“If it comes to that, all it would take would be a vote of no confidence, and I’ll resign,” he said.

In other business, the board voted 6-0 to appoint Julie Decker to the council’s vacant E District seat.

The board set a special executive session for Sept. 26th at 7 p.m. to review applications for the position of Borough Manager. The council is accepting applications for the position through Sept. 20.

The board voted 7-0 to appoint assembly members James Stough, Wilma Stokes, and Pamella McCloskey to the board of canvass for the Oct. 1 election.


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