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By Dan Rudy 

Shoemaker project highly ranked for state funding

 

Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Workers finish installing the last section of rooftop over Superior Marine's new work structure on Friday. Nearly identical to its neighbor, the metal-sided hangar uses nine sections of roofing rather than one, making it easier to repair.

A project to renovate the facilities at Wrangell's Shoemaker Harbor seems well-placed to receive

state assistance, the Port Commission learned this month.

Harbormaster Greg Meissner told commissioners at their Nov. 4 meeting the Tier I capital project being proposed to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) was ranked second for consideration, after a proposal by Kodiak.

The DOT 50/50 matching grant program was first approved by the Alaska Legislature in 2006, and is funded on an annual basis at Juneau's discretion. Grants are divided into two tiers, with Tier I having priority and consisting of major maintenance and repairs to harbors that were previously owned by the state but are now locally-owned. The second tier consists of all other harbor facilities and those

harbor facilities which have already received a Tier I grant.

A harbor facility may only receive one Tier I grant but is eligible for multiple Tier II grants. As such, Wrangell's Shoemaker proposal prioritizes float replacement and improvements to the harbor itself. Upland improvements to the parking lot and other facilities would have to wait for future funding sources.

The proposal asks for a $5 million matching grant, which would cover close to half of the renovation

project. Under the plan the commission put forward, remaining funds for a match would come from the Harbor Department, Wrangell would put up the remaining cash: $3.2 million would come from

available harbor replacement and commercial fishing reserve funds, while the other $2.5 million would be raised through the issue of revenue bonds.

In June the City and Borough Assembly approved the bond sale, which would involve issuance of 20-year bonds, with an interest rate estimated at around four percent. Annual payments would run at around $183,000, a proportion of which is planned to be recouped through stall rent revenues currently being deferred to the harbor reserve fund.

Meissner reported there were nine applicants in all for this next year, of which four were for Tier I projects. Though second in the running, he said whether or not any funds will be available depends on how much goes into next year's capital project budget, which at the moment is uncertain.

"Who knows? They can go anywhere from zero to everywhere in between," he told commissioners. Meissner said he has been in touch with Rep. Dan Ortiz and Sen. Bert Stedman, and has been told they will push for funding inclusion in the budget.

"That's the good news," said Meissner. However, to what extent the program is funded will not be known until a budget is passed by next summer. "We'll know for certain then."

If funding is available, its completion could tentatively be expected by the end of 2017.

In other Port Commission business, its blessing

was given to Superior Marine contractor Don Sorric

to set up resting quarters at his Lot 7 office.

Sorric explained the area would not be a residence, but would afford him some comfort while having to monitor heating equipment and during shift changes.

The coming winter will be a busy one for his firm, he said. Eleven large vessels are

slated for various levels of repair and outfitting, and Sorric explained staff and resources have expanded to

accommodate the work load. The new office was completed this summer, and an additional covered work area at the yard will be completed this week.

"We're happy to say that we've got the second building put up there," Sorric said. "We're growing up in business, growing up in employees."

With an increase in size, he explained the company has had to adapt in other ways as well. Superior Marine will be updating to more efficient LED lighting, which should cut down on some energy demands while it changes over from diesel to higher-voltage power for its equipment.

While Sorric said he is still waiting on the city to extend water access to his facilities – an area of concern pointed out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – he said there were no violations at the last safety inspection in August. New procedures and drills have been implemented over the past year, as well as safety wear for workers and firefighting equipment.

"We want you guys to know we are investing in the shipyard right along with the city," Sorric summarized.

"I'm glad that you're taking the time to come up here and give those," Commissioner David Silva said of Sorric's monthly reports. Last December the contractor had started making regular appearances at meetings in an effort to improve communication between the city and private interests in the boatyard.

On the topic of safety, Commissioner John Martin noted that Harbor Department employees were not consistently wearing hard hats and other safety gear on site. He felt it set a poor example and was a liability to the city.

Meissner responded that there were some practical considerations to wearing hardhats around the yard, but said he would consult OSHA on when they are required. Commissioner John Yeager suggested hardhats with chinstraps might be necessary if staff cannot keep them on.

"Why risk injury?" he asked. Yeager agreed with other commissioners that the department should be setting a good example at the yard.

Due to the absence of commission chair Clay Hammer, officer elections will be held in December at their Dec. 3 meeting. The meeting will be preceded by a budget and Mariners Memorial workshop at 6 p.m.

 

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