Wrangell’s assembly could set aside more than $2 million at its Tuesday meeting to begin development of the Alder Top Subdivision at the former Wrangell Institute property (pictured earlier this year).
(Sage Smiley / KSTK)

Wrangell’s borough assembly will hold its final meeting of the year Tuesday (December 20), and there’s a lot on the table. The assembly could add two new borough positions, make strides on several major projects, and approve last year’s audit. 

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The Wrangell Borough Assembly will consider taking some concrete action on one of its consistent financial failings (according to third-party audits) by adding a new finance department position: borough controller. 

In addition to providing more oversight on borough finance operations, the position will help with grant-writing, provide finance department redundancy, and help modernize the borough’s finance-tracking systems. It’ll be paid at Grade 30 on the borough’s wage table, the lowest step of which makes just over $82,000 plus benefits.

The other proposed new borough position is a tourism coordinator – a position supported by many tourism-related businesses in town. The coordinator will work with the borough’s economic development director to develop Wrangell tourism marketing and increase the borough’s social media presence and visitor campaigns. 

The proposed salary is around $52,000 per year plus benefits, based on the half-year proposal in the assembly packet. 

There are also major maintenance projects to move forward at the meeting. 

In October, Wrangell voters approved a $3.5 million bond for maintenance at the three public schools. The first step in the bond process is on the agenda for the assembly to consider – formally setting the terms of the bond and authorizing its sale. 

They’ll also look at appropriating over $2.2 million from the water, sewer and electric funds, as well as borough sales taxes. That’s to begin development of Alder Top Subdivision at the former Wrangell Institute property. The money will go to designing and constructing utility hookups and roads to 20 new lots at the site. 

While borough voters rejected a bond measure for the Public Safety Building in October, the facility still needs major repairs. To try and leverage funding, the borough will look at approving up to $52,000 to complete a preliminary architectural report on the building. The administration recommends assigning that project to Juneau-based Northwind Architects.

Another long-awaited project – fire alarm replacements for the middle and high schools – could move forward with a $98,500 transfer of federal forest money to the project. It had been held up because project bids weren’t within 10% of the engineer’s estimated cost. Now, Sitka Electric has bid within the engineer’s estimate, asking $655,000 to complete the upgrades. 

The assembly will also consider awarding a contract for upgrades to the recreation center’s HVAC system, which will be paid for with a community development block grant secured last year. 

And assembly members will discuss moving forward with an upgrade to the generator at the Nolan Center – one of the borough’s designated emergency gathering places. Funding for the generator, estimated to cost just over $87,000, will come from a state emergency management grant. 

The borough is also in the process of renewing its permit for the community’s wastewater treatment plant. But first it needs an analysis of the water near the plant’s outflow as part of that process – projected to cost around $40,000. That could be approved at the meeting as well. 

As part of the bigger-picture look at Wrangell’s infrastructure needs, the assembly is also set to discuss the priority capital projects list for the coming fiscal year. Top projects include a pipe to connect the upper drinking water reservoir to the water plant, and improvements to the Public Safety Building. 

There are a few land-related items on the borough assembly’s agenda. One is the proposed sale of a piece of tidelands in Reliance Harbor across from downtown for a local boat-building business. The borough proposes selling the property for about $27,000 less than its appraised value, with the reasoning that the borough will make up the money in property taxes. 

The assembly will also hold a public hearing on listing the old hospital and property with a commercial realtor. The borough has been trying since the spring to sell the property, with no luck. With the realtor, the building and surrounding land will be listed for just the land value ($470,000). 

Other agenda items include land re-plats, annual approval of a shared regional fisheries tax payment from the state, and a change to financial policy to allow the borough manager and finance director to authorize investments more easily. 

Before the regular meeting (at 7 p.m.), the assembly will hold a work session on borough department organizational needs, beginning at 6 p.m.

View the full agenda packet here.

Anyone wishing to speak at the meeting can sign up on the “Persons to be Heard” sheet located at City Hall prior to the meeting. KSTK will broadcast the regular meeting beginning at 7 p.m.

Get in touch with KSTK at news@kstk.org or (907) 874-2345.