Council paves the way to a new shipyard era

Vigor Alaska President Adam Beck stands shoulder to shoulder with Seward Ships Drydock manager Jim Pruitt at city hall, after council began to pave the way for one to pass the torch to the other. Heidi Zemach photo.

Vigor Alaska President Adam Beck stands shoulder to shoulder with Seward Ships Drydock Owner Jim Pruitt at City Hall, after council began to pave the way for one company to pass the torch to the other. Heidi Zemach photo.

By Heidi Zemach for SCN -

The Seward City Council unanimously approved a resolution at Monday night’s May 12th meeting authorizing the assignment of the city lease for two city lots at Seward Marine Industrial Center, currently leased to Seward Ship’s Drydock, Inc. through June 2040, to the large and multifaceted shipbuilder Vigor Alaska-Seward LLC. That, provided that Seward is indemnified of environmental liability for pollution discovered on the site over the next four years, after which the liability would be considered Vigor’s. The agreement is contingent on the new company showing proof of environmental liability insurance for the property; Lots 1-A and 3, Block 7, Fourth of July Creek Subdivision. To sweeten the pot, and because certain polluted spots have been found to already exist, and still more may yet be uncovered if further investigation is required by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the City, Seward Ships, and Vigor have all agreed to split the cost of the insurance for the next four years.

The resolution will take effect 30 days. Meanwhile, the three entities negotiating the lease arrangement prior to eventual sale of the property, will bring a new management and operating agreement to the council for approval mirroring the existing one.

Adam Beck, the vice president of Vigor Shipyards and president of the Alaska-based operation, which includes the Ketchikan shipyard, assured the council his company is strategically growing, and that Seward was included in its plans to be ready to address emerging markets, including the needs of the Bering Sea Fishing fleet, and oil and gas exploration and drilling in Alaska and waters of the outer-continental shelf.

Seward Ships Drydock. Heidi Zemach photo.

Seward Ships Drydock. Heidi Zemach photo.

Beck assured the council the company is committed to being commercial and environmental stewards of all of the shipyards it operates, and the pristine coastlines in which each facility is based, and that it places a high value on environmental protections. Vigor’s three basic principles include keeping all facilities clean and well organized; recycling and reusing scrap materials and removing unused or underutilized equipment, paving former dirt and gravel areas to reduce contaminants, and training workers in proper yard-cleaning techniques; everything from sweeping floors to proper waste disposal practices. Vigor also employs a variety of procedures to protect the air and water including pollution control technology, and integrating operational procedures, he said. Its environmental/operational teams provide specific training for all personnel to assure that each worker is prepared to meet the required standards for environmental protection.

In the two years since Vigor acquired the Alaska Shipping dry-dock in Ketchikan, the workforce increased by more than 17 percent, and 97 percent of the workers are Ketchikan residents, Beck said. The gross annual revenue of the shipyard increased by 26 percent in 2012, and 22 percent in 2013; annual wages and benefits for its employees increased by 30 percent and the average shipyard wage is now 60 percent higher than the average product sector wage in the Ketchikan community.

In other matters, the council also unanimously approved the introduction of an ordinance revising the city code to provide for the interconnection of small renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, biomass or water power to the city electrical grid. This does not include fossil fuel generation. These alternative energy sources must produce less than 25 KW, and may not be more than 1.5 % of the demand of each circuit. The city also reserves the right to refuse interconnection with alternative power sources, or to limit their number if it deems it harmful or hazardous to its system, employees or other customers. The formerly-proposed code dealing with the topic was lengthy, repetitive, and confusing, and the revisions have been long-awaited.



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Council postponed a vote on a resolution aimed at reducing the City Parks and Recreation’s Teen and Youth Center Day Camp fees to pre-2011 levels in order to encourage greater participation. In 2012 fees were increased, but a tiered system of discounts also created for those who could not afford the higher fees, but attendance at the camps declined by more than half that summer, and last, and only one family received the reduced fee, said Parks and Rec Director Karin Sturdy.

Sturdy proposed regular early-bird day camp rates of $50 per week, (half the cost of the current year and last two years) with an added $10 for late payment, and $90 per week (earlybird fee) for the more-selective and costly Adventure Camps Although school lets out in only three weeks, Christy Terry and Rissie Casagranda, the two council members who are both mothers with several young children, opposed voting on the reduced fees until the busy city department could provide more information about the economics of city-subsidized programs for youth, and about what other communities’ programs charge. Both expressed reservations about whether the proposal would work, and with the city-subsidized program competing with private daycares and other summer programs, such as the Seward Boys & Girls Club.

Meanwhile parents still trying to decide where to send their children may have a hard time budgeting ahead for summer, and may miss out on the early-bird rates that are due three weeks prior to each camp week.

Seward Mayor Jean Bardarson reads proclamation commending the significant progress AVTEC has made under Fred Esposito's leadership. Heidi Zemach photo.

Seward Mayor Jean Bardarson reads proclamation commending the significant progress AVTEC has made under Fred Esposito’s leadership. Heidi Zemach photo.

In other action council:

-approved a $2,000 donation to Resurrection Bay Historical Society to host the Museums Alaska/Alaska Historical Society Joint Annual Conference in Seward Oct 1-4.

-approved the first reading of an ordinance dealing with requested code changes to allow mobile vendors to operate on seven city parcels and within public rights of way. These vendors are allowed to get permits for a location off Washington Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues; two Waterfront Park sites along Ballaine Boulevard above Jefferson Street; two sites in the South Harbor Uplands, near the boat harbor; two sites at SMIC, one off Morris Avenue, the other off Nash Road near Jellison. “Roving Vendors” are not allowed on Fourth and Fifth Avenues between Railway and Jefferson, nor on Fourth Avenue (i.e. Small Boat Harbor) between Van Buren and Port Avenue. The license fee is still under discussion, but it appears that council would like to see it total around $250 for the summer in order to cover city costs, and assure a higher-quality product. Many conditions will be tweaked as council sees how the system works out.

-awarded proclamations to retired longtime AVTEC Director Fred Esposito and to BP Teacher of Excellence Terri McKnight, and also proclaimed Harbor Opening Weekend, and Blessing of the Fleet May 17th.

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