Wrangell City Hall.
(Sage Smiley / KSTK)

It’s been a month since the last meeting of the Wrangell Borough Assembly, and there’s a lot on the agenda for its Tuesday meeting (May 23). 

Listen to the audio version of this story here.

Three public hearings will kick off the meeting. 

The first is on a proposed, one-time $25,000 contribution to Wrangell’s Chamber of Commerce to support this year’s Fourth of July festivities. Assembly members have been split on the matter. Some are in favor of the funding, which could only be used for expenses pre-approved by the borough manager. Others are concerned about the Chamber’s financial history. 

The Assembly will also hold a public hearing on reshaping the borough’s Economic Development Committee. If the motion passes, it’ll be reclassified as the Economic Development Board. It will still work to shape policy and recommend grant ideas and development project proposals.

There will also be a hearing on the borough’s participation in a low-risk, statewide investment pool open to municipal governments, called the Alaska Municipal League Investment Pool (AMLIP). Wrangell has already been participating in the investment pool since last year, but needs to re-approve participation annually. 

The rest of the agenda is infrastructure-heavy. Assembly members will consider contracts totaling almost $1.6 million for projects including designing the power plant rehabilitation ($633,000), replacing the swimming pool’s exterior siding ($474,000), and updating the borough’s electrical meters to a smart system ($412,000).

Assembly members will also consider setting aside around $67,000 for corrosion protection projects at the Marine Service Center and Heritage Harbor.

With longtime librarian Margaret Villarma retiring, Wrangell has been looking for a new leader to head the public library operations. The position has been advertised for about two months, and the Borough has received a few applicants, but hadn’t hired anyone as of May 22. In the meantime, Wrangell’s assembly will consider downgrading the salary of the librarian position by about $8 per hour with a starting wage of $25.26 per hour and an upper limit of $31.79, making it the lowest-paid department director position in the borough. Borough Manager Jeff Good said Monday that the proposed decrease in pay better reflects the demands of the position. 

Also on the agenda is a modification to the collective bargaining agreement between the borough and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). It’ll add a provision for an apprenticeship program at Wrangell Municipal Light & Power that will create a path for apprentices to become journeymen. 

Wrangell’s hydroelectric provider is scheduled for maintenance beginning at the end of this month. Assembly members will need to approve around $40,000 in extra funding for fuel costs while the town runs on generator power. In total, the next diesel run is expected to cost around $214,000. 

Assembly members are set to accept the borough’s property tax rolls after the borough finalized assessed property values earlier this month. Property values in Wrangell increased almost 50% this year compared to last year for a total of $224,764,500. They’ll also consider a proposal to implement a $10,000 property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. That would go into effect next year. 

Other agenda items include new and modified leases at the Marine Service Center. That includes a short-term lease of a portion of the old mill dock to Trident Seafoods as its processing season approaches. The Assembly could also modify the existing lease for Channel Construction at the 6-Mile former mill site. That action would let the company recycle barges after environmental inspection, and add a 120-day termination notice window. And there’s also a proposed amendment to a borough lease with Vertical Bridge, a communications company subleasing a part of a local communications tower from the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. 

The Assembly will end the meeting in Executive Session. Behind closed doors, they’ll discuss the annual evaluations for the borough manager and borough clerk, as well as the possible purchase of a portion of the Presbyterian Church lot located between Church Street and Reid Street. The reasoning for the potential purchase has not been made public. 

Anyone wishing to speak at the meeting can sign up on the “Persons to be Heard” sheet located at City Hall. View the full agenda packet here.

KSTK will broadcast the meeting beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (May 23) on 101.7 FM and online at KSTK.org.

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