Power lines in Wrangell. (Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)

Power lines in Wrangell. (Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)

The Wrangell Borough Assembly voted unanimously Tuesday to reject a proposal for an electric department rate study.

Electrical Superintendent Clay Hammer requested approval for $24,990 of consulting services to analyze the city’s electric rates. That would help Wrangell Light and Power determine if it is financially ready to address deficiencies that were recently revealed in the power distribution system.

But Assembly Member Daniel Blake said the city and assembly can work together to fund repairs to electrical infrastructure without the help of a rate consultant.

“If we can get a priority list with a price tag attached to it, then we can sit down and try to figure out how we’re going to pay for it, and how soon we have to fund each thing based on when we expect it fail,” Blake said. “And then we can decide, if we have the money we can pay for it, or if we have to go up 1, 2, 3 percent on rates at that time, we can look at doing that. But I don’t see any need to spend almost $25,000 to figure that out.”

All assembly members agreed they want to avoid higher electric rates. In 2014, the borough raised electric rates by 7 percent.

The rate study would have been the second part of a two-step process. Last year, a systems study was completed to evaluate the condition of the Wrangell distribution system.

The review revealed that 80 percent of the city’s electrical infrastructure is at or beyond its expected life span.

Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said the systems study brought up issues that the city did not know about.

“There are factual things about it that say, ‘Your distribution system is at about 80 percent of its life on average. And you’ve got a generator shortage where you may or may not be able to, in certain circumstances, provide backup power to your community,’” Jabusch said.

He said he wanted the assembly to be aware of those concerns.

A consultant did an electric rate study for Wrangell five years ago but did not consider all aspects of the aging infrastructure. Jabusch said a new rate study would be more accurate.

Assembly members said they wanted to learn more about the electrical system before considering rate changes.