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By Dan Rudy 

Boatyard contractors still in need of water


Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Spray coming from a hose at the boatyard develops into an icy spout during freezing temperatures Jan. 8. Lacking utility hookups to its workshops, Superior Marine Services has resorted to running a garden hose from the nearest connection, across the yard.

Members of the Wrangell Port Commission were frustrated to find no progress was being made in extending water to one of the boatyard's major contractors.

Speaking at the commission's meeting Jan. 7, Don Sorric informed it the taps at Superior Marine Services were still dry after 13 months of waiting. After previously being cited by Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors in 2014, Sorric came to the Port Commission that November to request that utilities be extended to his lease lots.

Sorric has returned intermittently to meetings throughout 2015 to get an update on the water situation. Harbormaster Greg Meissner had by that spring informed the Public Works Department of the situation and requested work be done to extend the line. He explained pipes connected to the city's distribution end just beyond the yard's concrete in the northwest, capped and ready to be extended to Sorric's and two neighboring lots.

"We're just kind of waiting to get to that next step," Meissner said.

Back in May, Public Works director Amber Al-Haddad had told the Sentinel a co-training exercise between her workers and Harbor Department staff would be held "soon." Her staff are presently unfamiliar with the machine needed to install the new high-density polyethylene piping, which will eventually replace Wrangell's iron ductile piping. A contractor was to be brought in to lead the training, but scheduling conflicts had pushed it off through the summer.

Superior Marine currently has the firefighting equipment and hoses it needs installed. While his company received no violations at OSHA's latest inspection in August last year, Sorric pointed out to commissioners he had to explain that the water situation was being taken care of by Wrangell's Public Works department.

"Right now we can't comply because we don't have any water down there," he said. Worse than a fine or citation, Sorric pointed out the situation was a safety issue. New procedures and drills have been implemented over the past year, but his crew is practicing with empty hoses.

"For me it's a really big problem," Sorric said.

Speaking as a volunteer firefighter, commissioner Walter Moorhead agreed a boat fire could be devastating, not to mention dangerous. "That's a scary fire. A house fire's one thing – you can jump out a window or something," he commented. The confined spaces and flammable materials on board a vessel make it an altogether trickier situation.

Commissioner John Yeager shared Sorric's frustration.

"I think this is it," he said. "We need to take this and get water down there as a Port Commission."

He urged his fellow commissioners to invite Al-Haddad and Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch to their next meeting to explain the situation.

"This is stupid and we need to fix it," Yeager said. "He's not wanting to put a Coke machine down there, he wants water to put out a fire."

"I feel we've been waiting a long time on this," agreed Clay Hammer, chairing the commission. "I think a letter to the city manager would be appropriate."

He further agreed that inviting Jabusch and Al-Haddad to the commission's next meeting would be a good idea.

"My personal preference would be that it be done by then," Hammer added.

At the moment Superior Marine has a garden hose running from the pressure washer garage across the yard. The yard has working fire hydrants at its corners and there's a post hydrant accessible in the summer, but during the winter it has to remain off for fear of freezing.

Al-Haddad and Jabusch are both unavailable until later this month and were unable to respond to questions about the meeting.


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