Assembly extends suspension of in-person meetings

The Wrangell Borough Assembly met Tuesday evening, Oct. 13. During this meeting, they voted to extend a resolution allowing them to forgo in-person meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. This resolution was approved back in March when COVID-19 was beginning to impact Alaska. The resolution allowed for the suspension of in-person assembly meetings until Oct. 17, unless extended. According to the meeting's agenda packet, the city is working on plans to return to in-person meetings, but for the time being administration recommended that virtual meetings still be held.

"Regarding the in-person meetings, Staff believes that it is still unsafe to have full in-person (including the Staff and Public) in the Assembly Chambers," the agenda packet reads. "Our Assembly Chambers are not set up for full in-person meetings with Staff and the public ... Staff is proposing that equipment be purchased to allow for in-person meetings with 6 ft. distancing in the large room at the Nolan Center."

The packet went on to explain that the setup in the Nolan Center would allow for each assembly member, the Borough Clerk, and the Borough Manager to have their own table to sit at, equipped with microphones, to maintain 6-foot social distancing. A podium would also be set up for the public and staff to use, that the clerk would sanitize between uses. Face masks and hand sanitizer would also be made available. Chairs for the public would be set up to allow for audience attendance, but still have social distancing.

"The tricky part of this plan is the electronic equipment," the packet reads. "Working with the Nolan Center Director, Staff is looking at purchasing a laptop for the Nolan Center to use for the meetings, as well as the microphones and a video camera. Staff is wanting to continue using the Zoom option for the public members who do not want to participate in-person."

Assembly Member Terry Courson, this being his first meeting since being elected, stated he would like to find a way for the public to be able to approach the assembly with their thoughts and concerns as easily as they used to before the pandemic. Assembly Member Anne Morrison, recently re-elected, wanted to make sure that the equipment they were considering purchasing would be used beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and would have a long lifetime of use. Borough Clerk Kim Lane confirmed that this was the plan. Mayor Steve Prysunka stated that as long as this was coming from the city's COVID funds, and not the general fund, he was comfortable with the proposal.

After further discussion, the assembly voted to extend the suspension of in-person meetings until Dec. 31, while staff continue to work on preparing the Nolan Center for use in the future. Borough Manager Lisa Von Bargen said their goal is to be ready for in-person meetings by the assembly's first scheduled meeting in January.

On a related item, the assembly also extended an emergency declaration regarding COVID-19 to Dec. 31.

During the meeting, the assembly also approved of an application to the ADEC State Revolving Loan Fund for the water treatment plant improvements project interim financing plan. They also approved of an audit engagement letter with BDO for the FY 2020 audit. Other items covered in the meeting include a proclamation declaring Nov. 1 "Extra Mile Day," appointment of Assembly Member Patty Gilbert to vice-mayor, as well as other appointments to various boards and committees.


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