Petersburg’s borough assembly Tuesday voted to extend a contract with the state for COVID-19 testing of travelers. It also voted down membership in a statewide commercial fishing trade organization.
That agreement dates back to last June and for most of the pandemic, it paid for greeting, screening and free testing at the James A. Johnson Airport. It was to expire at the end of last month. But the latest extension will keep that free testing available through the end of September.
Instead of the airport, the testing will be done at Petersburg Medical Center. PMC CEO Phil Hofstetter told the assembly Tuesday that the hospital will be able to make that part of their operation.
“We can certainly absorb that,” Hofstetter said. “I mean it’s not super easy to transition everything, there’s a lot of moving parts involved but having it in the facility is something we’ll make available. If there is an outbreak or the delta variant comes in, we will scale up as needed.”
The borough has ended greeting and screening of travelers at the airport. The medical center is using its hotline phone number 772-5788 as a COVID information line now. People can call that for information about symptoms, testing or vaccination.
The latest contract amendment could boost the state payment by over 300,000 dollars, pushing the total contract amount to $1,276,425. That’s the total possible state reimbursement dating back to June of 2020. The bulk of that, $1,101,000, goes to the medical center for the testing service.
In other decisions Tuesday, the assembly voted 5-0 against paying for a $300 annual membership with the United Fishermen of Alaska, a statewide commercial fishing industry group.
Assembly members were not comfortable backing an organization that endorses political candidates.
“I made the motion; I don’t support the motion but I wanted to talk about it,” said assembly member Jeff Meucci. “You know I think there’s no way we can get around supporting this organization who actively campaigns for people they support in the political arena.”
The assembly was interested in other ways to support UFA that did not involve paying a membership. The borough does pay to be part of some municipal groups, like the Alaska Municipal League and Southeast Conference. Those organizations do lobby on issues but generally don’t back a slate of candidates.
Mayor Mark Jensen and assembly member Taylor Norheim were not at the meeting and the vote was unanimous against paying the UFA membership.