Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Assembly revisits contractor list, sets ANSEP committee


Wrangell’s Borough Assembly revisited its local contractors list, which it had adopted last year in order to streamline hiring for small projects.

An idea was first put forward to the Assembly by Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch in December 2014, drafting a list of licensed local contractors who could be called upon for small-scale jobs under $25,000 on a rotating on-call basis. A pool of qualified local contractors hirable by the city was created, ensuring those contacted for jobs were qualified for the work and that all those qualifying would be given an equal opportunity to participate.

Currently, Municipal Code allows jobs valued below $10,000 to be purchased without bidding or quotes. Work over $10,000 but less than $25,000 require at least three written quotes, while work over $25,000 requires the city to advertise and receive sealed bids. The list allowed for everyone on the list to be contacted in the $10,000-25,000, but only if on the list.

More than a year since its adoption, meeting with departmental heads to gauge their experience with the list, Jabusch said several concerns had come up. Staff felt the hourly rates and exclusionary nature of the no-bid process for jobs within a certain range caused some projects to cost more money than they ought. In instances where a qualified contractor for a task was lacking or unavailable on the list, they reported the requirement to go through a listed general contractor often ended up with an out-of-town specialist subcontracted for the job, inflating rates. And contractors on the list have to place the city as additional insured, a $100 annual cost which for some specialized contractors who may not be needed for their specified tasks more than a few times in a decade.

At staff’s request and after discussing the problems, the Assembly tasked Jabusch with drawing up revisions for its review, as well as a stronger definition of “contractor,” as opposed to maintenance specialists. Potential changes could include altering the requirement that only listed contractors be contacted for applicable small bid items, but that they would be included in job requests.

In other business, the Assembly approved formation of a special committee to track progress of possible development of a residential school by the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, which has expressed interest in Wrangell’s former Institute property. The program features an accelerated middle and high school curriculum, which will be branching out from its current summer school programming into a full-time campus in the Matanuska-Susitna area this fall.

The committee will also be tasked with addressing any public concerns about the residential school’s potential development. It will be made of at least three and up to eight members, consisting of Jabusch, the school superintendent, and a member of the Wrangell Cooperative Association, with the option for members of the Assembly, city staff, private sector or Wrangell Chamber of Commerce, and school board or staff. Once assembled, it would meet at least quarterly to track the program’s progress.

The Assembly passed on first reading a trio of cost saving measures, the product of budgetary discussions earlier in the year. Already coming from those discussions was its decision last month to approve a rise in harbor facility and boatyard rates ahead of the new fiscal year. In part this was because the previous rates had remained unchanged for the better part of a decade, and in the aggregate were not allowing the Harbor Department to adequately invest in deferred maintenance costs.

For similar reasons it decided Tuesday to adopt adjusted fees for building permits as outlined in the Unified Building Code, raising costs by 1000 percent for residential, commercial, remodeling and miscellaneous permits. The change affects projects valued at $2,000 or more, with permits now ranging from $50 to $150.

The Assembly also moved to eliminate one of the city’s two annual tax-free days, in which consumers are exempt sales tax on a day designated by the Chamber of Commerce. The setting of the single date would still fall to the Chamber’s discretion.

Various fees for cemetery plots and services were also altered. Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch explained this was due to the rates not having been changed in years, but also because available space in the city’s cemeteries and columbarium had nearly run out.

“That’s one of the reasons for the timing of this,” he said. “We have to do something.”

The Assembly approved on second reading an ordinance which would strike Section 3.54 of the Home Rule Charter, pertaining to the Nolan Museum and Civic Center Board. The board has lately been difficult to keep fully rostered, to the point where four of its seven seats are currently vacant. At the request of the Nolan Center director, on June 14 the Assembly decided it might no longer be necessary. The item will move to October’s ballot for a public referendum, which will repeal the section if passed by a majority of voters.

With local elections upcoming, vacancies on the ballot were also announced. This year two three-year seats on the Assembly, one two-year term for mayor, two three-year terms on the Port Commission, one four-year term on the Wrangell Medical Center Board and two two-year unexpired terms, and two three-year terms on the Public School Board will be open. Applications to run will be accepted beginning August 1. Consult the City Clerk’s office for details.


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