Local News

Letter to SEAPA back on the table

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The borough assembly tonight will discuss sending a letter to the Southeast Alaska Power Agency, or SEAPA. This discussion is a roll-over from the September 10th assembly meeting

SEAPA and the Thomas Bay Power Authority, or TBPA, are topics that have divided the assembly in the past.

At the last assembly meeting, assembly member James Stough requested to add an amendment to the agenda.

It was to call for the removal of Brian Ashton, Wrangell’s voting member on the SEAPA board.

When the discussion finally rolled around to that item, Stough made a separate motion.

The motion directed Ashton to ask the SEAPA board to pay for the operation and maintenance, O&M, costs of TBPA.

That includes the secretary’s wage and accounting fees.

The motion continued that if the board did not approve those quote ‘legitimate’ expenses, the Borough Manager should deduct the costs from the monthly power purchases from SEAPA.

Basically, if SEAPA doesn’t pay, Wrangell pays the other amounts it owes SEAPA minus the TBPA O&M costs.

Initially, Mayor David Jack said he didn’t think it appropriate to add this motion to the table.

Stough said this topic has been before the public a number of times and he said it’s time to act, rather than just discuss.

Borough Clerk Kim Lane, supported by member of the public, Christie Jamieson, read the official rules on how the meeting should be conducted.

An assembly member like Stough could introduce a topic but Mayor Jack retains the right to keep it on the table, or move it to a later date.

The motion was allowed to go forward.

It failed with a vote of four to two. Assembly members Stough and Wilma Stokes were the two dissenting votes. Ernie Christian was excused from the vote because of a conflict of interest.

His wife, Rhonda Christian, is the TBPA secretary.

While new assembly member Julie Decker was a “no” vote, she asked that the item be discussed further in the next meeting.

Stough reiterated the point hashed out at the September 10th special meeting between the Wrangell and Petersburg Borough Assemblies.

It’s that Wrangell has been the only community footing the bill since Petersburg’s assembly voted to stop paying its share of the O&M costs earlier this year.

SEAPA board member Ashton said he would support the city’s request for him to ask SEAPA about the costs, but said a more formal approach might be better.

That letter is the topic of discussion at this assembly meeting.

In the agenda packet, the supporting documents include three letters.

The Four Dam Pool Power Agency was the precursor to SEAPA.

SEAPA executive assistant, Sharon Thompson, wrote in an email to Borough Clerk Kim Lane that according to the 2005 Four Dam Pool policies and procedures handbook, quote:

“Administrative, clerical, and supervisory costs relating to the normal utility operations of the Project that are not the result of the addition of the Project to the Operators System are not permitted as a Project Expense.”

Basically, SEAPA doesn’t have to pay the O&M costs for TBPA.

SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson wrote a letter to John Jensen, president of TBPA.

He outlined various steps SEAPA is willing to take to basically absorb TBPA.

If the communities and agencies agree, SEAPA would take over operations and employees at Tyee.

Michael Nicholls, General Manager of TBPA, wrote in a memo to the Wrangell assembly that there are several directions the community could take with regard to TBPA. But he says, he thinks the only viable option that would keep TBPA in existence and maintain community oversight would be for Wrangell to continue paying the entire O&M cost.

This is all under item 13b at this evening’s assembly meeting.

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