The Wrangell Borough Assembly Tuesday approved the community’s list of capital budget requests for the next fiscal year and made the need for a new fire truck one of the top priorities.
The first two priorities on the list for fiscal year 2016-2017 are a new float system for Shoemaker Bay Harbor and the first phase of replacing the town’s water main distribution system.
Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch explained the borough’s top priorities.
“The reason one and two are there because one, there’s currently money in the governor’s budget for Shoemaker Bay. And legislature may ax that,” Jabusch said. “Item number two, DEC has money for water mains and things like that, because most of that is federal money that is passed through.”
A new fire truck is now the third priority, followed by pool facility improvements, the design and construction of a new hospital, boat yard improvements and public safety building renovations.
Assembly Member and volunteer firefighter Stephen Prysunka told the assembly that the fire trucks are old, and they should not be ranked 18th on the list.
“I’d like to see us move that up or come up with some strategies for replacing that lifesaving equipment,” Prysunka said. “And I know the battle cry is, ‘You hardly ever use it.’ Well, when I roll into Wrangell Medical Center, and I see that defibrillator sitting there–it hardly ever gets used–but when I need it, I want it to work. And it’s the same with a fire truck. You need it to work. So I want to see it moved up.”
Prysunka said demonstrating that it is a higher priority for the borough could help secure grant funds.
Wrangell Fire Chief Tim Buness said the insurance company that performs safety ratings for Wrangell’s firefighting equipment does not like to see fire trucks over 30 years old.
He said one truck is just over 30 years old, and another is nearing that age. He also said a new fire truck will probably cost more than the $275,000 proposed on the capital budget request list.
Buness said Wrangell’s fire trucks are reliable, but the fire department wants to stay ahead of any problems.
Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore said she is looking at some possible grant opportunities for fire trucks and other public safety projects.
Jabusch said the assembly can decide to shift capital funding priorities, but projects probably won’t get funding unless there is federal money involved.
“We’ve got buildings–the public safety building, the pool building. I mean, you look at this list, and someone could give us $100 million, and it wouldn’t be enough,” Jabusch said.
There are about 50 projects on Wrangell’s list, totaling millions of dollars of requests for state and federal funding.
The state legislature is looking to make more spending cuts this year, and its capital budget will probably continue to shrink. Last year, none of Wrangell’s capital projects were funded by the state.