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Assembly clarifies questions for legal advice


The Wrangell Borough Assembly clarified questions to be put to an attorney relating to the ongoing debate over the Thomas Bay Power Authority.

Discussion focused around questions to be put to a power attorney – borough manager Jeff Jabusch mentioned one of the attorneys who drafted the original Long-Term Power Sales Agreement, which dictates the terms under which electricity from Tyee Lake power plant and Swan Lake dam are sold as a possibility – as the borough resolves questions about the future of the Authority.

The scope of the questions is essential to the debate, in part because it will determine whether a plan sought by assembly member James Stough to ask the Southeast Alaska Power Agency to cover the portion of the TBPA cost labeled net non-billable, or failing that to withhold that amount from the power payment made to SEAPA can proceed forward legally.

“The question is … do they have the legal right to choose to not accept those costs,” Jabusch said, referring to the net non-billable portion. “The second question is: are Wrangell and Petersburg both entitled to 50 percent of the power coming out of the Tyee Project.”

The total cost of the TBPA net non-billable cost is $110,000, historically split into equal halves, one paid by Petersburg and the other paid by Wrangell. The Petersburg borough assembly voted in August to withhold their $55,000 allotment, leaving Wrangell to cover the total cost. Assembly members and community members have since engaged in at-times raucous debate over whether the TBPA should exist at all, a debate elevated by an offer by SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson to absorb TBPA altogether.

Part of the discussion Tuesday centered on the nature of that cost. A portion pays TBPA administrative salaries, according to assembly member Julie Decker. Another portion pays for travel expenses and other costs associated with the Thomas Bay Power Authority Commission, a board responsible for overseeing the TBPA.

“Some of it is … the secretary’s position and accounting, and some is actually the commission’s … travel and board insurance and that kind of stuff,” Decker said. “(TBPA General Manager) Mick (Nicholls) thought the split was $50,000 was board cost and $60,000 was very legitimate O&M cost.”

Outgoing assembly member Ernie Christian had proposed questions along similar lines in an e-mail to assembly members, and the assembly ultimately decided to combine those questions together.

Decker proposed a third question Tuesday.

“I would like the attorney to say who’s ultimately liable for the $750,000 (Public Employee Retirement System) liability,” she said.

The money she’s referring to is the collected pensions of the employees of the TBPA, which SEAPA has offered to pay in a lump sum to Wrangell as part of a plan proposed by Acteson to a joint meeting of the council in early Sept.

In other business, the board voted 5-0 to approve the Wrangell Timber Industry Plan, the product of a year’s worth of work by the borogh’s Economic Development Committiee.

The assembly elected Decker to the rotating position of vice-mayor, held previously by Assembly member Ernie Christian.

The board also voted to appoint ten community members to fill vacant spots on various boards and commissions. Terri Henson and Stanley Schnell were appointed to three-year terms on the Planning & Zoning Commission. Robert Lipper was appointed to fill a three-year term on the Parks & Recreation Board. Wilma Leslie and Brenda Schwartz-Yeager were appointed to the Wrangell Convention and Visitors Board.

James Stough was appointed to the TBPA Commission to fill a position vacated by Warren Edgley. Robert Maxand was appointed to the Economic Development Committee. Donald McConachie and Olinda White were appointed to the Nolan Museum and Civic Center Board. All appointments are temporary, and expire October 2015.

Vacant spots remain on the Economic Development Committee, the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Nolan Museum and Civic Center Board.

The assembly also held an executive session lasting approximately 20 minutes to discuss a letter from an attorney representing Oliver Construction over a dispute about scrap metal salvage in the Borough, but took no public action.


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