The Wrangell Borough Assembly will hold a special workshop to discuss the future of the Thomas Bay Power Authority. KSTK’s Ariel Van Cleave explains.
The decision comes on the heels of a recent report released by D. Hittle and Associates, which was commissioned by Southeast Alaska Power Agency, or SEAPA, to investigate the organization’s structure and look for ways to possibly streamline operations and maintenance. SEAPA board members had an initial discussion about the report during last week’s conference in Petersburg. Members decided to hold off on making any decisions until city officials in Wrangell, Petersburg and Ketchikan had a chance to look over the report and talk about some options. Jeremy Maxand is Wrangell’s mayor and serves as the SEAPA board chair.
“Hear what pieces of information may or may not be missing, to hear from Thomas Bay Power Authority and Ketchikan Public Utilities over in Ketchikan, and to make sure this isn’t a unilateral decision made by one or two board members, but that it’s actually something that’s there’s a broader level of consensus amongst the communities to do,” he said.
He said there could be implications for jobs in Wrangell. The report talks about reducing staffing levels at the plants.
“It would be premature to talk about staffing level reductions just as a result of this particular report. And I think that would be a decision, I personally would feel more comfortable coming from the staff to the board after some thoughtful deliberation about what it takes to actually manage those projects safely for the plant itself and for the operators down there,” he said.
Maxand says he wants to look at possibly reworking current contracts to see if there is flexibility in how Thomas Bay and the other organizations operate rather than outright cancelling contracts. He also would like to look more into the chain of command.
“You’ve got operators who are employees of Thomas Bay Power Authority, but you also have SEAPA staff who are doing some higher level kind of operation or control at the plant, which is the best way I can put it I guess, that requires them to do some direction of Thomas Bay Power Authority staff. And so that chain of command isn’t really clear and it causes some friction and inefficiencies,” Maxand said.
Assembly Member Don McConachie said he would like to see councilors in Petersburg take part in the workshop.
“We as two communities make up Thomas Bay Power Authority, so whether we have, I don’t say we’re going to get everybody over here, and if we could well, fine and dandy. But, at least have representation from the council over in Petersburg, from the, some representation of the Thomas Bay members from Petersburg,” he said.
Dave Jack agreed and mentioned it may be a good idea to include Ketchikan in the discussions as well. Board members did not decide an exact date for the workshop, but Mayor Maxand suggested the meeting be held at least before the next SEAPA board meeting, which is set for December 13.