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By Dan Rudy 

Assembly prepares for budget season, passes pot ordinance

 


Even before getting into its own upcoming budget, Wrangell’s Assembly had plenty of numbers to crunch at its regular meeting Tuesday evening, with an hour-long joint session held beforehand with the local school board regarding its upcoming budget and a presentation by Wrangell Medical Center’s executive on the state of the hospital’s finances. (see adjoining stories)

Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch reported next year’s budget is coming along on task, with a draft likely to be ready for review by mid-April.

“We’ll bring you a balanced budget one way or another, without raising taxes,” he told the Assembly.

Jabusch said the biggest decline would be to Wrangell’s jail. The state currently provides $590,000 toward its operations, but that will drop by more than half next year. While this is on the one hand better news than its complete closure, Jabusch felt the cut would be a difficult one to absorb.

“That’s probably the biggest one for the coming year,” he said.

State revenue sharing will also be down by $25,000, and he said these funds would be progressively cut by thirds over subsequent years.

“It’s going to be a long dry spell before there’s any money coming out of the state,” Jabusch warned.

He said he will also begin meeting with city employees soon to let them know what to expect; while Jabusch said everything will be done to preserve jobs, compromises on benefits and hours may have to be reached.

In other Borough matters, eight new city lots are being surveyed and prepared for sale, and the city is also investigating possible federal revenue sources for purchasing a new baler for its public utilities.

Jabusch announced the Army Corps of Engineers has also selected Shoemaker as one of three smaller-scale projects, possibly improving the harbor’s breakwater.

“We will be working with them to see how the two of us will work through that,” Jabusch said. Designs for a new float system there are also being worked on by the Harbor Department.

The Assembly passed on their second readings three ordinances, amending Wrangell Municipal Code relating to the board of directors for Southeast Solid Waste Authority, changing admission rates for the Nolan Center museum, and prohibiting the consumption of marijuana in a public place.

This last ordinance defines the extent of public spaces and makes violations subject to a $100 fine. A public hearing for the ordinances preceding Tuesday’s meeting saw no input from the community, and all three passed unanimously.

Assembly members also passed on first reading an ordinance amending the code relating to weapons and the discharge of firearms and adding a section on abuse of the 911 system. This will be subject to public hearing at the Assembly’s next meeting on April 14.

Two zoning requests were approved: the McCloskey/Rooney Wrangell Island West Subdivision replat map and Torgramsen/Prunella Subdivision plat map.

A trio of resolutions likewise passed, providing a new job description for a permanent part-time collections clerk, reinstating a prior job description for the pool’s custodian position and providing for the delegation of authority to the city manager for executing agreements relating to the Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA) electric revenue improvement and refunding bonds.

At the meeting’s conclusion, the Assembly withdrew into executive session to discuss SEAPA’s Swan Lake expansion project funding.

Beth Comstock was also presented with a certificate of service recognizing her time on the Nolan Museum and Civic Center Board, from Oct. 2012 to the present. The vacancy she leaves on the board remains unfilled, as does one on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Interested applicants can contact the Borough Clerk at City Hall for more details.

 

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