The Petersburg Borough Assembly will make the final decision on its fiscal year budget in its June 5th meeting. The assembly will also consider a proposal to allow a third party to investigate the Borough’s hiring practices and safety procedures.

The Assembly is scheduled to take a final look at five ordinances they approved in both their first and second readings in May. The Assembly will take a final vote on a proposed 6% increase on public sewer utility rates, which would go into effect immediately. The Assembly unanimously approved this ordinance in its first and second readings.

The Assembly will also review a proposed change to the Petersburg Municipal Code on residential use of boats in the public harbors. If adopted, no more than 10% of the moorage spaces in the harbors may be used by live-aboard vessels from May through October — except at the discretion of the Harbormaster.

The change would also prohibit renting out vessels in the harbor for residential purposes. This would effectively ban using boats as a vacation rental or bed & breakfast. The ordinance would not prevent overnight lodging on short-term passenger ships as part of a cruise. Finally, this ordinance would also increase the penalty for speeding and excessive wake around the harbors from $50 to $200. The ordinance was unanimously approved in its first and second readings. 

Also, the Assembly will take a final vote on authorizing the harbormaster, Glorianne Wollen, to enforce local traffic and parking laws at the harbor facilities. The proposed change would also establish a $25 penalty for parking violations. This ordinance was unanimously approved in its first and second readings.

The Assembly will also make the final decision on next year’s budget. At the last meeting, the Assembly voted to increase the funding to Mountain View Food Services from $25,000 to about $43,000 using general fund reserves. 

The proposed budget includes $40,000 to hire a grant writer to draft an application to acquire the Papke’s Landing facility from the State of Alaska. It also includes $12,000 to plow snow around the deteriorating facility’s side roads. The ordinance had full support from the assembly in its last reading.

The Assembly will take a final vote on allowing federally-recognized Tribes, state and federal agencies, and nonprofits to buy Borough property for less than its assessed value — if the Borough determines that allowing them to do so is in the best interest of the public. The Assembly unanimously approved the ordinance to move forward after its first and second readings. 

The Assembly is scheduled to revisit the idea of allowing a third party to investigate the Borough’s hiring practices and safety procedures. In April, the Assembly considered an ordinance to hire an independent specialist to review the Borough’s hiring procedures. Now, the Assembly plans to consider proposals from two contractors – Beacon and Alaska Public Entity Insurance.

The investigation concerns a 2016 car wreck that killed two borough employees and injured two others involving four Parks and Recreation employees. On July 4th of that year, Parks and Recreation employee William Christopher Allen suffered a seizure while driving a Borough van. The ensuing crash took the lives of his fellow Parks and Recreation employees, 18-year-old Molly Parks and 19-year-old Marie Giesbrecht.

At a meeting on May 2nd, the Assembly directed Borough Attorney Sara Heideman and Borough Clerk Debra Thompson to seek proposals for a third party-review of the Borough’s safety procedures. The Borough is considering proposals from two companies: Beacon and Alaska Public Entity Insurance. 

Beacon is an occupational safety and health services provider. The company’s proposal includes a full on-site review of safety programs, which would include interviews with employees, walk-through of facilities, review of written safety plans and insurance loss control reports. It would also review the Borough’s driving safety procedures, but not its hiring practices. The cost of the Beacon’s investigation is estimated to fall between about $1,800 and $6,500.

Alaska Public Entity Insurance, or “APEI,” is a Juneau-based insurance company. APEI’s proposal includes a review of existing safety and training programs, with special attention to job safety analysis for driving positions.  It would also review hiring practices and reasonable disability accommodation requests, and then prepare a report and recommendations. The company would not charge for these services.

Also at the meeting, City Manager Steve Giesbrecht is requesting that the Assembly consider a new borough position–a Utility Assistant Director. The new hire would work alongside Utility Director Karl Hagerman, who plans to retire in the next few years. This position is salaried at approximately $105,000, and is intended to help retain institutional knowledge when Hagerman retires.

Petersburg’s Borough Assembly will meet today at 12 noon in the Assembly Chambers. KFSK will broadcast that meeting live and post the recording on our Borough Assembly Archives. Anyone from the community can join the meeting in person, by phone, or on Zoom. There’s more information on KFSK’s community calendar.