Here is a roundup of some of the top stories in the past year in Wrangell. These stories aren’t over, and we look forward to keeping tabs on how this variety of issues plays out in 2018.
Age is catching up with Wrangell’s infrastructure. The city is working towards updating the treatment plant to meet summer capacity, and it is redesigning Shoemaker Bay Harbor.
The public safety building, which houses the local courthouse, fire department and police station, is in bad shape. Wood rot, water damage and mold have been found in the building. A consultant recommended intensive repairs to the roof and sidings. And in November, the courthouse had to be shut down because of air quality concerns. Since then, all local court business are directed to the Ketchikan and Petersburg offices. The city is waiting on air test results, but there is no knowing when, and if, the courthouse will be back in business.
Wrangell’s city and local tribe have not yet figured out what to do with 20,000 cubic yards of lead contaminated soil. The leaden solid was found at an old abandoned junkyard, where car batteries and other hazards had leaked into the ground.
The state came up with a plan to move the soil to somewhere else on the island last summer. But, the city and tribe have said the site would be too close to Pat’s Creek, which is a recreation and fishing spot on the island. The local governments say they want to come up with their own plan on how to move the soil, but there are no funds or other sites yet secured for moving the waste.
The city often goes for public grants to subsidize projects in town. However, the city is working to privatize the local hospital. The borough manager and the assembly say this might be the best way to bring funds into the old and cash-strapped hospital. The medical center had reached a low point in November when its operational fund sunk to a 3-day reserve. The Borough wrote a last minute 250,000 check to the hospital to meet daily costs.
The city is courting the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium to acquire or manage the hospital. SEARHC acquired the local medical clinic this year. City officials say SEARHC already being in the community makes it the obvious choice.
The city is searching for a consultant to help navigate negotiations with SEARHC.