Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Assembly sniffs out burn ordinance, sewage funding


At its first meeting since the Oct. 6 elections, an unchanged Wrangell City and Borough Assembly discussed and largely approved a number of revisions to the Municipal Code on first reading.

The proposed ordinances would clarify violations relating to littering, nuisances, distributing handbills, the burning of rubbish without permit, and other infractions, adding them to the minor offense schedule in Title 1.

Staff notes indicate the change is a requirement of the state’s court system. Not listing the fines and applicable penalties in Title 1 means the violation merits a mandatory court appearance.

Assembly members had some concerns with Ordinance 911, dealing with sections of Chapter 15.18 concerning garbage violations. Looking at the violations, Mayor David Jack and member Mark Mitchell expressed the opinions that requiring a permit to burn brush and dry refuse on private property would be an encumbrance to residents.

On hand to explain the Police Department's point of view, Sgt. Bruce Smith said the rule has already been on the books, and that it would be a courtesy for people to let Wrangell Fire Department know if they were planning on setting fires. A “permit” in this case was verbal permission to do so, which a resident is able to receive by phone.

“As it is, I'm not aware of the fire department ever issuing a physical permit,” Smith said.

A volunteer firefighter himself, Assembly member Stephen Prysunka echoed the view that requiring some advance contact would be a good idea. During especially dry conditions he said people may be unaware of burn bans in effect, and a call to the station could inform them of any risks.

The Assembly voted to postpone first reading of the proposed ordinance until the next meeting. Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch volunteered to examine ordinances in neighboring communities for direction before returning with a draft and said he would look at state standards as well. The other ordinances would return for public hearing and a second reading at the next meeting Oct. 27.

Assembly members approved a pair of ordinances required for its sewer pump replacement project, accepting $91,000 in Rural Development loans. Along with $68,000 in grants from the Department of Agriculture program, the Borough will rehabilitate its two main sewage pump stations, which after 38 years are at the ends of their service.

Rural Development has offered Wrangell a partial funding package which includes 50-percent funding in the form of a grant and the rest at a loan with 2.875-percent interest. The city will then use the loan and grant funds to match existing grants allocated for the project. No rate increases will result from the costs of the project.

Full costs for the project are expected to be near $1 million, with 75 percent of funds to come through the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. In addition to the USDA loan and grant, the city’s share will come to around $78,000.

The Assembly approved a second reading of Ordinance 908, amending the due date for payment of property taxes to Oct. 15, beginning in 2016. The change was made after the council suggested the previously set Sept. 15 date was inconvenient for some, since Permanent Fund Dividends tend to be distributed in early October.

It renewed auditing services for the next four years with BDO, the city's contracted auditor for the past 15 years. The contract for services between 2016 and 2019 are anticipated to cost $191,000 in all, plus out-of-pocket costs.

Jack ceremonially proclaimed Nov. 1 as “Extra Mile Day,” both to acknowledge voluntary service and to encourage residents to chip in for their community's betterment. The name stems from the organization Extra Mile America, which is promoting the day nationally. It is aiming to have 550 cities participate this November and is currently up to 480.

On that note, Jack exhorted the public to consider participating on one of several boards with open seats. Currently there are two open seats on the Planning and Zoning Commission, three open seats on the Economic Development Committee, and two seats left on the Nolan Museum/Civic Center Board. Appointments were made for several seats, with Haig Demerjian and Alice Rooney appointed to Parks and Recreation, Marian Glenz to the WCVB, and Dan Roope to a third museum board seat.

“We need volunteers to give the invocation at Assembly meetings,” Jack added aloud for the benefit of residents listening in over the radio.

The community was also invited to attend a meeting being held by the governor's office at the Nolan Center Oct. 21, entitled “Building a Sustainable Future.” Assembly member Julie Decker explained the presentation will be a dialogue between residents and the government of Alaska about the future of its budget. At Gov. Bill Walker's website, gov.alaska.gov/Walker/priorities/transition-2014/sustainable-future/the-conversation.html, people can use an interactive revenue and expenditure model enabling them to “fix Alaska's budget.”

Decker said the meeting will be a great opportunity for locals to learn more about the state's fiscal issues and the decisions that may soon be coming. Rep. Dan Ortiz may also be attending, so residents can interact with their local legislator as well. The meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Decker also requested the Borough adopt and submit a resolution to the Alaska Municipal League urging the state to amend requirements of the Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund. She explained Ketchikan has already put forward a similar measure, which would amend the $5 million fund to allow shellfish farmers involved in the program to acquire native starting stock and plant seed from out-of-state producers.

While oysters are already exempt from this, Decker said the rule limited the number of participants in the state mariculture program, which only three farmers have used to date. Shellfish producers can get up to $100,000 to develop farms, but without existing fisheries in the state producing the seed they need, many cannot get started.

“It's a relatively small tweak,” Decker said, adding it might jumpstart what could be a promising industry in the region.

The resolution also supports a change which would allow for nonprofit shellfish hatcheries to utilize the fund in an amount not to exceed $2 million of its principle. The Assembly approved the resolution.


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