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By Dan Rudy 

Park board enters new year, director to head Public Works


Wrangell Parks and Recreation Board discussed the possibility of setting up wireless internet at the community center gym, after receiving a letter from resident Jim Leslie asking for the upgrade.

Board members Bob Lippert, Holly Owens, Michael Brown and Cindy Martin were present to discuss the matter at the Jan. 7 meeting.

In his correspondence, Leslie indicated the change would be helpful for exercisers who prefer to stream music through their cellular phones while running. The letter pointed out that reception indoors is limited and data packages quickly spent when trying to stream.

The suggestion poses some logistical questions for the Parks Department. First, it would have to examine costs, determine possible usage, and identify a reasonable cost to use the service.

“That could be variable month to month,” department director Amber Al-Haddad reasoned.

Board members also expressed concern that the system might be taken advantage of, being used by those not using the facility or for downloading larger-sized files.

“You can block video,” Owens suggested, limiting access to certain music-streaming sites.

Brown was also concerned about passwords being shared out, and asked that Al-Haddad also look into how that might be prevented.

During board reports, Lippert explained he is now back after an injury sustained late last fall. While on the mend, he had been able to attend the open meetings training session the Borough hosted on Dec. 11.

“It was pretty informative and interesting,” he told the board. Among the things he learned, Lippert said he better understood the rules about holding open meetings. This includes unannounced gatherings of board members and even online communication.

“We can do things through email, we just have to do it through blind copy,” he said. Members ought to deal with the department director or other board members individually rather than discussing topics online as a group.

Al-Haddad had news of her own to report: She is due to head up the Public Works Department by the month’s end after current manager Carl Johnson leaves. She will be bringing two decades of construction and related management experience to the position.

“I think the program’s been advanced since you’ve been here,” said Martin. She recommended drafting a letter of appreciation to present Al-Haddad at the board’s next meeting.

The board also identified goals for itself, going into the new year. Among items to focus on, adopting a memorandum of understanding agreement for park facility user groups and reviewing policies and procedures were named.

“It feels like we’re pretty close to having one,” Lippert said of a revised policy manual. It reviewed a second draft, and will have at least another revision before revisiting it at next month’s meeting.

The board would also like to develop more programming geared toward adults, with adult education courses and other activities considered. The Parks Department will also improve or add signage for parks and trails.

During her report to the board, sitting member Cindy Martin said a dozen signs directing visitors to Mount Dewey have been approved. The high school has agreed to manufacture the signs at its shop facility, provided the aluminum and vinyl needed to make them is provided.

How much that will cost will have to be determined, and Al-Haddad said her department would know whether there will be extra money in the budget to purchase materials by the fiscal year’s end in June.

Al-Haddad also recommended making development of a fee assistance program policy a top priority for the new year.

“I think there’s some work to be done on that,” she said.

The swimming pool is still out of service, being allowed to drain for investigative purposes. A leak appears to have developed somewhere in the shallow end, and tile will have to be removed before repairs can be made. Al-Haddad speculated the pool might be usable again by the time the replacement heat exchanger gets installed, which may be a month from now.

A condition report put together by engineers last fall has estimated around $2 million in various repairs and improvements will be necessary to put the public pool back into good condition. The project has made the Borough’s capital requests wish list as its top priority.

In other business, it was noticed the shooting range off Spur Road is technically closed during the winter. However, signs informing people about the season closure are not posted, and some residents continue to make use of the range throughout the year. Rather than putting up signs, Lippert instead recommended changing the ordinance to allow use.

Wolfpack Wrestling also began this week. The preteen program helps get kids started in the sport, and is headed up by coaches Jeffery Rooney Sr. and Jeff Davidson. Practices go Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. For details, contact Victoria Martin at 874-2444.


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