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The Borough Assembly meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 covered the Alaska Class Ferry controversy, LED lights, and the Southeast Alaska Power Agency.

Borough Manager Tim Rooney was not present at the meeting. He submitted a written Borough Manager’s report to be read by a proxy.

Rooney commended the work done last fall by linemen to replace Wrangell’s streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights. This conversion will save the City an average of $32,000 per year in energy costs.

City Hall – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK News

The report continued with an update on the installation of telephone poles on Spur Road. The poles are ready to be put in place. He says the process is expected to move quickly.

The Assembly supported the City’s decision to continue with its utility disconnects. After notice is given, utilities may be shut off in homes that have failed to pay their bills.

The Assembly continued with a discussion about the City’s affiliation with the Southeast Alaska Power Agency, or SEAPA. Assembly member James Stough moved to create a new energy committee to focus on Wrangell’s energy options. This committee would potentially include representatives from the SEAPA board as well as the Thomas Bay Power Authority, technical staff, and the utilities superintendent.

Vice Mayor Bill Privett says it comes down to the decision of whether to stay with SEAPA or divest and become independent. But, he says, it’s important to work closely with neighboring communities.

“Since we are not alone on this—we have another community involved, which is Petersburg, this is not something we can do on our own. But I think that we should at least look at the whole process and look at that and, if it’s in our best interest—and when I say our best interest, I include Petersburg—then that is something that we should, as two communities together, move towards,” said Privett.

The Assembly asked Mayor David Jack to make contact with Petersburg and formally initiate the discussion.

However, the Assembly says, above all, they don’t want to put a financial burden on locals by increasing rates for power.

The Assembly expressed its concern with the possible scrapping of plans to build an Alaska Class Ferry.

The Alaska Marine Highway System had planned to add the large ship to its fleet. The plans were put aside when the costs were higher than expected. There is currently a discussion about whether to build multiple shuttle ferries instead.

Those smaller ships would service the Lynn Canal from Juneau to Haines and Skagway. Concerns have been raised about the safety of running such small ships in rough water along that route.

Vice Mayor Privett says he’d also like to see a ferry that would not be so exclusive to one area.

“From Wrangell’s perspective necessarily, more necessarily than just from up North. But, I mean, if we’re going to build an Alaska Class Ferry, let’s make sure it has the opportunity to travel throughout Alaska. Not a shuttle ferry. Shuttle ferries are simply much different than an Alaska Class ferry, I guess, which can go from point A to B and C and D and E and F, rather than just A to D,” said Privett.

The Assembly encouraged Mayor to write a letter of concern on behalf of Wrangell to Governor Parnell.

Ernie Christianson will take over the Assembly seat vacated by David Jack when he was appointed Mayor. Assembly member James Stough explains why he moved to appoint Christianson.

“The reason that I proposed Ernie Christianson is my concern for the upcoming electrical things with SEAPA and the other things that are going on with our electrical site. Ernie has served in that capacity before. He has good knowledge. And he was on the original energy committee and I hope he’ll serve on that when we form that. And that’s my main concern,” said Stough.

Finally, Dr. Greg Salard spoke during the public comment period.

“I’m not sure if you all have heard but today I’ve got my privileges at the hospital. So, for those of you that don’t know, I just wanted to let you know I’m looking forward to working in the hospital again and taking care of my patients there and in the emergency room and I appreciate those of you all who have supported me through this long ordeal,” said Salard.

There was no executive session following the meeting.