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By Dan Rudy 

Pipes and floats top borough's projects list


Wrangell's City and Borough Assembly elected to update its capital projects list for the 2017 Fiscal Year at its regular meeting Tuesday. The selected projects will be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for competitive review.

Water main distribution system replacement will top the revised list, with Shoemaker Bay Harbor float replacement moving up to the number-two slot. This year's list was topped by improvements to the community pool and boatyard.

Projects from around the state are weighed on a point-award basis. The Borough last year applied for and received a $542,249 loan towards the project, which earns extra points under the grant review criteria of the project. More points are received if the project is also the community’s number one project.

“We're certainly trying to get every point we can,” explained Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch.

With funding cuts affecting departmental budgets around the state, the primarily federal money distributed through the DEC grant should be highly sought after. The strategy is that rearrangement of Wrangell's capital improvement priorities will give its project a better chance of receiving funding.

In particular, the project would target ductile iron piping in use around the borough, which has displayed a tendency to fail well before its intended lifespan. The $657,000 project would focus on piping beneath the island's three northernmost roads, including Grave and Spring streets, which have been rupturing worse than in other neighborhoods.

“Those three I think are pretty much held together by the patches we put on them,” Jabusch quipped.

Funding awards would not be determined until next spring after the legislative session.

Aiming at securing $5 million for a match, the Shoemaker Bay project would likewise benefit from having a high position on the CIP list as the Borough applies for a Department of Transportation Marine Facilities grant, another competitive process. A resolution for application to the fund will be put before the Assembly at its July meeting.

Following a theme of civic projects, the Assembly also awarded CRW Engineering Group with a $149,306 contract to undertake a pilot study for the water treatment plant.

The project will ultimately provide direction in making modifications to the existing facility, or else suggest an alternate treatment method to produce drinking water that exceeds current and future regulatory requirements. The city received a grant from the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) for use towards the study.

CRW was one of six firms applying for the contract, and was the highest scored by three independent reviewers.

The Assembly also approved disposing of a 1989 Caterpillar Grader at a minimum bid of $40,000. Funds earned from the sale will go into the General Fund reserve, which is made available for emergency projects.

“You never know what the priority will be when something happens,” Jabusch said.

Assembly members also approved a new fee schedule put forward by the Parks and Recreation Board. Parks Department director Kate Thomas explained the new fee schedule would see some increases in daily rates, with incentives built in to encourage users and user groups to buy passes. She said she conducted “extensive community outreach,” conversing with pool and facilities users in order to hammer out acceptable rates.

“I think these are increasing, going in the right direction as far as raising revenues,” commented Julie Decker, who commended Thomas' rates for not being too high. A previous draft schedule submitted to the Assembly in January had been rejected for its rate increases.

The Assembly was also informed Wrangell Medical Center head Marla Sanger will be leaving her position at the end of October. PeaceHealth, the company she had been contracted through since 2012, likewise announced it did not intend to renew its management contract after her departure, leaving responsibility for finding a new director to the WMC Board of Trustees.

Assembly member Stephen Prysunka expressed anxiety the board would have only three months to decide on a suitable replacement, after missing its scheduled June meeting for lack of quorum. He asked if a special meeting could be required of hospital board members before their next scheduled meeting in mid-July.

“We can advise them to do it, but we can't tell them to do that,” Jabusch explained.

Prysunka also voiced disappointment Sanger and PeaceHealth's announcements came on the heels of a two-year contract for billing services with TruBridge, which was approved by the Assembly at its June 9 meeting.

“I really wish that we had some indication that that was going to take place,” Prysunka said of the dual announcements. The TruBridge contract had been estimated to cost the hospital somewhere in the ballpark of $400,000 over the two-year period. Oversight of the new billing services would be left to Sanger's successor at the hospital, and Prysunka said her departure could have weighed into the Assembly's decision.


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