The search for Wrangell’s next borough manager will continue. After interviewing its last candidate, the Wrangell Borough Assembly announced Wednesday it will start from scratch.
The assembly interviewed its last prospect for the position Tuesday. Ann Capela, Bethel’s former city manager, met with the panel in person. The lone candidate said the assembly made its goals very clear, most notably the possibility of a new hospital.
Capela served as Bethel’s city manager until last year, but Alaska Dispatch News reported she left before her contract was set to end in November 2017. Capela’s resume details several local and county government jobs dating back to 1995, and has held seven leadership positions at the township, county and city levels.
When asked if she would accept the position if offered, Capela explained she would like to keep her options open and had to address logistical issues.
The panel discussed its options in executive session for about an hour before assembly member Patty Gilbert made the announcement.
“Move to direct the borough clerk to advertise for the borough manager’s position,” said Gilbert.
The motion was unanimously approved. Current Manager Jeff Jabusch announced his retirement in September 2016 and left the assembly with six months to find a replacement. A hiring committee made up of assembly members and borough administration has sifted through 21 applicants since.
With the group going back to the drawing board, it’s unclear if Jabusch will stay on longer than his planned departure next month.
Three candidates remained in the running until mid-January. One dropped out later that month and former prospect, Bradley Hanson, accepted another position.
In other business, the sale of property and tidelands near the Stikine Inn was finalized. The land is the first step in owners Cheryl and Bill Goodale’s plan to expand the hotel and restaurant. Thirty rooms and retail space are slated to be built.
Goodale offered about $64,500 for the land, significantly less than the appraised value of about $101,000. Assembly member Patty Gilbert questioned Goodale’s basis for the offer. Goodale was not present, but Stikine Inn Manager Jake Harris was on hand.
“The best way for me to put it is it is the best offer he can make and have it work for both parties. He thinks it’s a fair price considering the amount of developmental costs,” Harris explained.
Goodale told the Economic Development Committee Monday the offer was also based on his past experience buying and selling property. Assembly member Julie Decker was among several to speak in favor of the deal.
“I think the balance of the public benefit is definitely there when you consider that the difference in value will be paid back one to two years once it’s fully operational,” Decker noted.
The expansion is estimated to funnel up to $125,000 in additional taxes into the borough’s coffers annually.
A resolution to restrict federal funding for schools and roads was passed. Secure rural schools is a federal program that appropriates funds to communities within national forests. The resolution’s intention is to only allow Wrangell Public Schools to use that money. The borough received about $922,000 through the program last year.
The assembly also approved a resolution urging Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding for the 2016 pink salmon season. About 18 million pinks were harvested in Southeast last year, significantly below the 34 million forecasted.
Gov. Bill Walker wrote a letter in September asking the federal government to declare a disaster for the Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Chignik and Lower Cook Inlet management areas. He later included Southeast.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker approved Walker’s declaration request in January. Congress still needs to approve relief funding.