Wrangell is conducting an income survey to find how large its low-income population is. The city hopes to use the results to qualify for grant funding through an Alaska Department of Commerce program.

“The reason we’re doing this is several years ago we were eligible because roughly 51 percent of the population was low to medium income,” Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said.

Jabusch explained with the state continually shifting costs onto municipalities, Wrangell has to find other ways to fund capital projects.

“We actually had a grant for about a half a million dollars from them here just a year ago to fix our sewer pump stations. The one down by Rayme’s and the one down by the boat launch near the power plant,” he said.

Wrangell lost its qualification for the program after 2015 census data showed 46.4 percent of the population was low income. Those residents must make up 51 percent of the city in order to qualify.

The block-grant program would help fund one project per year. Wrangell would be required to foot 25 percent of the bill and could receive up to $850,000 annually.

Two surveyors are calling residents to collect the information.

“It’s all confidential. We don’t give this information to anybody else other than the state,” Jabusch added.  

He encouraged residents to take the quick survey if they are called. The city hopes to finish in three weeks, but will continue until it gets the required number of responses.

“Until we get 396 successful ones,” Jabusch noted. “We have to complete that, and if we can’t get that number of them, we can’t even turn it in.”

The city is eyeing several capital projects. The Public Safety Building is in need of new siding, roof and structural work. The community pool is also on the list. Wrangell would have to requalify for the program again once data from the 2020 census is released.