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By Dan Rudy 

Assembly approves capital requests for next fiscal year

 

Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Wrangell's Mayor David Jack presents an award to Public Works Director Carl Johnson on behalf of his department at the Nov. 12 Assembly meeting. Wrangell's public utilities won the 2014 Source Water Protection Award from Alaska Rural Water Association for its improvements in storm-water treatment and watershed protection.

At its Nov. 12 meeting, the Wrangell City and Borough Assembly approved its list of capital project requests for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Assembled by city staff and Assembly members, the annual list

prioritizes projects in order of

importance and gets circulated in Juneau and Washington D.C. by the

borough's lobbyists, also serving

as a target for finding funding opportunities.

Topping the list are pool facility improvements, which could be as

high as $1.5 million. Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch explained a full estimation is underway. Final improvements

to Wrangell's Marine Service Center

totaling $4 million and $500,000 for sewer pump replacement follow.

The projects listed vary in scope and price, from $60,000 for emergency SCUBA gear or $25,000 for fire hose replacement to $9 million for replacing the float at Shoemaker Harbor.

In explaining the list, Jabusch said that while a new hospital seems like a natural candidate for top priority, in light of tighter budgetary times to come the borough should focus on finishing ongoing projects and needed repairs.

The list recommends seeking $2 million of the hospital's projected $39 million cost for its design. After that, $100,000 for life and safety upgrades to the community center and $2.9 million for water main distribution system replacement are next in line.

In other business, a replacement for assistant librarian Margaret Villarmo has been found. Valerie Ni hEideain currently serves as the custodian at Irene Ingle Public Library but has already been working on grant applications and is currently earning her masters degree. Villarmo will take over for head librarian Kay Jabusch when she retires in January.

"We had some other really good applicants, too," said Jeff Jabusch. "She's extremely talented," he added, remarking that Ni hEideain will be the best fit for the position.

The Assembly also approved a gaming permit application from the Alaska Scholastic Clay Target Program, which will allow the nonprofit to hold raffles and other fundraising events to support its youthful shooters.

The sanitation budget was also increased, from $4,000 to $10,000, with money from the Sanitation Reserve Fund. The extra funding will go to

purchase additional 300-gallon

dumpsters, which Public Works Director Carl Johnson explained are needed for commercial usage. The 30 new receptacles will hopefully be delivered and in use by the upcoming spring.

Johnson has also tendered his

resignation from the department, effective Jan. 30, 2015.

"I would like to publicly thank him for all he's done," Jabusch told the Assembly. Johnson has been an integral party to grant-writing and project

management, not just for his own department but for buildings, harbor and other infrastructural projects.

"We appreciate your service, and you're going to be missed," Assembly member Mark Mitchell told Johnson.

"He's going to be missed, and hard to replace," Jabusch said.

Finally, for persons to be heard, local resident Stephen Cole came to speak about the new marijuana measure passed during the Nov. 4 general election.

"The pot vote last week passed by quite a margin," he noted. Wrangell

voters had approved the measure by 424 votes to 316. Statewide, Ballot Measure 2 passed with 53.24 percent of the vote.

"Society's changed a lot since the 60s and 70s," said Cole. "I think it would be a real boon to the tourist business."

In particular, if neighboring

communities elected to restrict

recreational use of the drug, Wrangell could stand out by having a shop or bar that catered to marijuana users. "If we can provide that kind of environment I think it's a real win-win for the community."

Noting that Wrangell is on an island and federal restrictions are in place

hindering shipment of seeds or leaves by air or sea, Cole said he was not sure how an entrepreneur might go about starting up a marijuana-related business.

Other potential barriers exist in the form of licensing or permitting costs.

In light of these considerations, Cole thought it important the Assembly not put up

any additional hinderances

by way of ordinance or

statute.

"If anything, take no action until you see what the state comes up with," he said.

While appreciative of Cole's comments, the Assembly's response was generally cautious.

"No matter what the state says, it's still a violation of

federal law," Jack said. He added that the borough receives federal funding for a variety of projects, many of which have stipulations requiring drug-free workplaces and the like, and that the city would not want to jeopardize those agreements.

Even so, Jack said he does not foresee the city getting involved in the matter, either way.

The next Assembly meeting is Dec. 9.

 

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