Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Assembly to revisit property tax date change, hospital credit


A special meeting will be held on Aug. 12 to allow the public to discuss and review a proposed ordinance relating to the new property tax payment due date.

In May the Wrangell Assembly passed an ordinance amending the Municipal Code to establish a single due date for payment of property taxes to Sept. 15, rather than dividing it between two dates. Under the ordinance, interest on late payments was set to 10 percent annually.

Mayor David Jack requested the Assembly revisit the matter at its meeting Tuesday, after some residents expressed confusion about the single payment date.

“It's not on those days, it's by those days,” Jack emphasized. Residents can pay their property taxes at any time before the Sept. 15 cutoff without being subject to fines.

However, to help ease the community into the new arrangement, the Assembly approved drawing up an ordinance to temporarily allow two dates—Sept. 15 and Dec. 15—this year for making tax payments.

The special meeting will also allow Assembly members to discuss extension of credit to the Wrangell Medical Center, after it chose to reject a request by the hospital to seek out a $500,000 line from a financial institution.

Interim CEO Marla Sanger explained the credit request would give the hospital a “buffer” financially this fall, should they experience a cash reserves shortage as company TruBridge transitions into handling WMC’s billing operations.

The hospital currently has about $488,900 in reserve, but Sanger said decreases were anticipated over the next couple of months.

Assembly members were wary of the request, which would give the hospital approval to enter into an agreement without first knowing the terms or rates involved. Sanger explained the bank she had contacted wanted the Borough's approval to proceed before giving her a quote.

“I would like to see some safeguards put on this money so it's not just a credit card or a runaway account,” said Assembly member Mark Mitchell.

“I appreciate the autonomy of the hospital and its unique relationship with the Borough,” fellow member Stephen Prysunka said. But “the hospital is the city; it's not a separate business.” He was strongly in favor of the city setting aside funds to be used at the hospital’s request, if needed.

A proposal to set aside a sum from the General Fund will be presented to the Assembly at its special meeting.

During Tuesday's meeting Assembly members approved a resolution to submit a grant application to the Alaska Department of Transportation for float replacement and improvements at Shoemaker Bay Harbor in the amount of $5 million.

“If we are successful our application needs to be in by Sept. 1,” Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch explained. Some $5.7 million needed for a match for the $10 million project was already prepared. If the grant gets approved, Jabusch said the city would be ready to bid out and refurbish the harbor.

An ordinance establishing the revised fee schedule put forward by the Parks and Recreation Board was passed on second reading. Assembly members also approved a resolution amending the job description for the recreation coordinator position.

A resolution amending an erroneous value assessed to the property of Greg and Doreen Purviance was passed. Due to a manifest clerical error, the valuation had been increased from $160,000 to a surprising $1.6 million.

Assembly members also passed a resolution accepting a $91,000 loan from the United States Department of Agriculture for replacement of the city's aging sewer pump system. Jabusch commended Public Works staff for tenaciously pursuing other grants as well, which he estimates will save the city $350,000 on the million-dollar project.

Assembly members also approved a post-procurement expenditure to BW Enterprises in the amount of $72,720 for rock-crushing work. The company was awarded a no-bid contract for the project, which was first estimated to cost less than $25,000.

The overage costs were accrued during a project to tidy up the Borough's quarry of waste rock, making it accessible for a future public project while obtaining a stockpile of crushed material. Public Works staff conducted a visual assessment, which later turned out to be a gross underestimate.

Instead of 2,000 yards, more than 6,000 yards of rock were crushed before work was finally stopped. Verbal arrangements and a missed meeting contributed to the misunderstanding.

“It was certainly our fault for not saying 'not to exceed $25,000’,” Jabusch admitted of the contract. “Certainly it's something we want to correct for the future.”

He explained that future no-bid contracts will include a clause specifying that work and costs cannot exceed the agreed upon amount without prior, written approval.


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