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By Dan Rudy 

Residents up in arms over weapons misconduct rules


A number of concerned residents appeared Tuesday night at the public hearing for an ordinance amending Title 10 of the Municipal Code, specifically dealing with concealed-carry and weapons misconduct in the City and Borough of Wrangell.

The Assembly had the proposal before them on its second reading, and during oral presentations at the hearing and later in their regular meeting itself, half a dozen people expressed their dissatisfaction with some provisions of the ordinance.

Local resident Charles Hazel felt the rules omitted allowing the discharge of firearms on private property, and that prohibiting their use within one half-mile of any public street, road or highway was excessive. In addition to feeling a quarter-mile restriction or less would be more appropriate, he also felt the area being described was vague.

“Are we going to Mile 5, or are we going to the tip of the island?” he asked. “It seems the road crews all stop at 5-mile.”

However, he agreed there were issues with people firing out by the old lumber property, around the golf course and by the schools, and that these ought to be restricted.

“It's basically kind of common sense stuff,” he said.

Larry Daly was also critical of the half-mile restriction. “I just can't see any logic in it,” he told the Assembly.

“I'm not happy with that at all. I think a quarter of a mile is overkill, myself. A hundred yards would be plenty safe,” he said.

“I think state law is pretty adequate,” opined Dale Tewalt.

According to the Alaska Department of Game and Fish website, “State law prohibits shooting on, from or across a road.” It adds: “As a matter of safety and courtesy, hunters should not discharge firearms except well away from roads.”

Mostly, Hazel and others felt the ordinance would be overly restrictive for younger shooters and hunters, unnecessarily threatening an outdoor pasttime they agreed was important to quality of life.

Addressing these concerns, Mayor David Jack said the ordinance being proposed is only changing the Borough's regulations restricting concealed weapons, which is at the moment more stringent than state laws.

“That is what this began as,” he said. The section banning concealed-carry is being removed with references to that likewise changed, but Jack explained other restrictions laid out in the code relating to roadway proximity and exemptions for bow weapons were already on the books.

Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch sought to clarify the bounds being dealt with by the ordinance, with the island's “service area” extending along Zimovia Highway on the western side until it becomes McCormack Creek Road, but not along the island's eastern, back-channel half.

However, Assembly members were uncomfortable coming to a final decision on the ordinance without knowing for certain what area it entailed. The proposal was tabled for future consideration, when maps could be made available as a reference.

Assembly members also passed an amended version of Ordinance 892, itself amending municipal code regarding the use and sale of fireworks within Borough limits. Language in the chapter was clarified to denote the banning of loud or self-propelled explosives, exempting smaller amusements like sparklers and bang-snaps.

During member reports, Daniel Blake recommended that the Borough Clerk Kim Lane approach Wrangell's attorney to draft an ordinance banning or otherwise restricting public consumption of marijuana on the island. By his suggestion, this would not be directed toward commercial aspects of the drug the Legislature is currently working to regulate following a voter referendum last November.

Blake also recommended Wrangell impose a “sin tax” on the sale of tobacco, alcohol and pot, which would provide operating and maintenance funds for Parks and Rec.

Assembly member Stephen Prysunka also recommended that Jabusch draft and submit a letter on behalf of the Borough that an Alaska Wildlife Trooper be reassigned to the island. After Scott Bjork was reassigned to Juneau last month, AWT announced it would not be replacing him for the foreseeable future, citing budget concerns.

“I think it's crucial,” Prysunka said. Lacking a Trooper would not only be a safety concern, he argued, but it would mean the loss of another professional position to the community. Assembly members agreed, tasking Jabusch with the letter.

They also approved a memorandum of understanding between the Borough and Wrangell Cooperative Association. Jabusch explained this obliges no sharing of funds between the two bodies, but would increase communication and perhaps cooperation between them on future projects.

“I think it's an excellent thing,” said Blake. “I think we need to be working together.” The agreement will be in effect through Nov. 25, 2019.

In other business, one of two applicants for the vacancy left by Pam McCloskey, David Powell was appointed to serve on the Assembly for the rest of her term, lasting through June. In attendance at the time, Lane swore Powell in on the spot, whereupon he took a seat on the Assembly to participate for the rest of its meeting.

The Borough also has confirmed the hire of a new director for Parks and Recreation.

“After our selection process we hired Kate Thomas,” said Jabusch. Starting on Feb. 18, she will take over from Amber Al-Haddad, who herself has been hired on as the new director of Public Works.

No interest in the current vacancy on Planning and Zoning has so far been shown.


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