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By Dan Rudy 

Borough to consider changes to small project hiring


Wrangell Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch presented a plan to streamline contracting for small projects to the City and Borough Assembly at its meeting Tuesday evening.

The new policy being proposed would first create a pool of qualified contractors who can be hired by the city when needed, while also presenting them an equal opportunity to participate in public jobs. To accomplish this, the plan would call for contractors to be called up in rotation based on the kinds of projects they are capable of undertaking.

Contractors wishing to be included on the master list would have to submit proof of liability insurance and licensing, as well as a list of services the provide and the rates thereof.

A pair of contractors appeared to weigh in on the proposal, Harley Johnson and John Taylor.

“There's a lot of thought in here and there's a lot of good things in this proposal,” Johnson said.

However, both felt some changes ought to be made to the document further ensuring that selection of contractors for work would be handled fairly.

Among their recommendations, notification of quotes for all contractors for jobs ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 would be circulated to all contractors participating. Any jobs under $5,000 would not have to be bid for, and would be offered automatically to the next contractor listed in the rotation. Also, phased projects would not be given de facto to the same contractor, but would revolve between contractors on the list as they would for any new job.

They also requested some means of more evenly meting out total monetary values of jobs. Jabusch responded that going into that level of detail would undermine his intention to create a simple mechanism for hiring.

“No matter what we do it's not going to be a perfect system,” he told them. “Over time we believe this will average out,” with some contractors perhaps receiving bigger jobs than others some years by luck of the draw.

Assembly members gave some additional recommendations for clarifying some of the document's points and making it necessary to bring any changes to the policy to the Assembly for its approval.

Jabusch requested the Assembly postpone approving the new policy until he could make some changes. “There were a couple good ideas that I should incorporate into this document,” he told them. The revised policy should be ready for the next meeting on Jan. 13.

Paving work on Evergreen Avenue was also reported to be progressing at a slower pace than first expected. Though the Borough first expected bidding to begin this fall, the state Department of Transportation informed Jabusch bidding will not begin until next September, making it likely construction will not begin until the spring of 2016. Part of the delay is due to DoT's environmental review process, which can take around six months.

Wrangell's attorney and director of Public Works did negotiate for better terms in the agreement, improving Wrangell's position in its involvement with the DoT-led project.

The Assembly approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and state, setting Wrangell's stake in the project at between $591,300 and $680,000, depending on whether the 15 percent contingency is used.

Wrangell Medical Center CEO Marla Sanger and financial consultant Olinda White also appeared to report on the hospital's current financial situation.

After the departure of WMC's chief financial officer in early October, White was taken on to finish up the hospital's annual audit and prepare its Medicare cost report.

“The financial audit was done really late this year,” White explained. Typically wrapping up in August, she said it was only completed in October. The cost report was due Nov. 30, which required a copy of the audit report.

Citing in part problems with new software for processing Medicare claims and difficulties receiving compensation from Medicaid, as well as unanticipated advance returns, White explained Wrangell's hospital is getting low on operating funds. It currently has about $252,000 in its general fund, with $150,000 in payroll costs upcoming. At the moment, WMC has about $4.2 million in accounts receivable.

“You need to be aware that it's out there,” White told the Assembly. “We'll get through it, we've done it before.”

“I do think what we have to do is get a handle on our cash flow,” Sanger said. White said the hospital will aim to get its receivable levels back down to $2.5 million or lower.


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