Last night’s City Council meeting was one of the briefer that I’ve attended. It was straight to business and proceeded quickly through the agenda. The meeting was attended by Council Members: Bardarson, Keil, Casagranda, Squires, McClure and Altermatt. Council Member Slater was out of town. In attendance were also the City Attorney, Will Earnhart, City Clerk Johanna Kinney and City Manager Jim Hunt and Assistant City Manager Ron Long. The audience members were few as the topics being covered were important but not controversial, and no proclamations were given, or honors bestowed.
Immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance, the meeting opened with citizen comments. Lila Hurst of SOS Pets spoke in support of Resolution 2017-010 which would appropriate $20,000 to be used for improvements to the animal shelter. Hurst explained the great need for improvements at the current shelter and spoke of a priority list for the order in which those improvements take place. The next citizen speaker was Dan Adams of Sources of Strength, a peer led suicide prevention program that will be implemented at Seward Middle and High Schools over the coming years with training taking place in the high school on Tuesday, February 14th. The goal is to have at least 10% of the student bodies trained and involved in the program, which focuses on acknowledging and growing strength in eight different core areas.
City Manager Jim Hunt gave his report for the time period January 6th through February 3rd. Hunt reported that the City finance department has been awarded Excellence in Financial Reporting for the year end December 31, 2015, the highest award given in government financial reporting. Hunt spoke positively about public works continued efforts at clearing snow around town, reporting that snow storage areas are “filling rapidly.” According to Hunt’s report, the Lowell Creek tunnel repairs are moving forward, although the schedule was affected by the recent storms. Hunt had the opportunity on February 3rd to get inside of the tunnel alongside the Army Corps of Engineers Rep and “see the conditions and challenges firsthand” inside the mountain.
Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council (PWSRCAC) was next on the agenda. Outreach Coordinator Lisa Matlock was introduced by local board member Orson Smith. Matlock spoke of the recent change of tug and barge service providers from Crowley Marine Services to Edison Chouest Offshore. Edison has a new fleet of tugs that are being constructed in the Gulf of Mexico, which will replace Crowley’s fleet around Alaska. This is the first change of tug and barge contractors since 1995, and prior to that, Crowley provided docking services for oil tankers at the Valdez Marine Terminal since 1977. PWSRCAC expressed concerns about the challenges around the transferring of the contract in terms of training new crews. The local hire requirements (20% Alaska Native hire for Alyeska will be in effect) for Edison have not been finalized, but recruiting for staff will begin this summer and fall.
One of two resolutions on the agenda was funding for the Seward Animal Shelter, something that’s been desired and talked about the last few Council meetings. Resolution 2017-010 was sponsored by City Manager Jim Hunt in an effort to provide funding to the Seward animal shelter as a temporary solution for many of the facilities challenges. Plans for building a new animal shelter have been discussed for a number of years, but neither site or funding have yet been secured. The resolution appropriated $20,000 from the General fund to the animal shelter repairs account to pay for installation of outdoor electric outlets, temporary heating improvements plumbing repairs, installation of a wireless internet connection for security cameras, improved flooring and roofing repairs. The resolution was passed with gratitude by all council members, who spoke of the public desire to create a safer, cleaner space for the benefit of the animals, staff members and volunteers.
Resolution 2017-011 concerns appropriating funds for the installation of new electronic meters for electricity usage monitoring. The City of Seward was gifted 5,000 of these seven-year-old meters from the community of Kodiak, for the cost of shipping them from Kodiak to Seward, which represents a savings of $300,000-700,000 for the city of Seward, according to Utility Manager John Foutz. The discussion centered around the concerns on likely needing to replace some of the meter bases on people’s homes and businesses around Seward during the installation process, which is planned to take place in June, and will cause short, 5-10 minute interruptions in electricity service. The resolution appropriates $178, 684 to hire contractor National Metering Technical Services to install the new meters. The resolution did not explicitly appropriate funds for replacing meter bases and Council was concerned that they honor the agreement to have this meter-replacement project not cause additional costs to users. This concern for having funds available for meter base replacement will be taken up at a future Council meeting or work session. The resolution passed unanimously, and the public will continue to be informed as the project moves forward. For individuals concerned about the condition of their electrical meter base, the City offers meter-base inspection for no cost the first time. The Electric Department can be reached at (907) 224-4073.
City Clerk Johanna Kinney raised the topic of beginning planning for the 50th Anniversary of our Sister City relationship with Obihiro, Japan, which will take place in the summer of 2018. Previous significant anniversaries of this relationship have been celebrated with gifts, mural exchanges and reciprocal delegations of citizens. Council agreed to begin thinking of ideas and will take up the topic again at their next meeting. The next Work Session for City Council was scheduled for March 6th at 5:15-6:45pm, in which they will receive reports from three different groups, for 30 minutes each: Planning and Zoning Commission, Port and Commerce Advisory Board and Historic Preservation Commission.
The public portion of City Council concluded with well wishes for Valentine’s Day and gratitude for the $55,000 raised at the Sea Life Center’s Gala in Anchorage. The public exited Council Chambers and an Executive Session began in which the City Manager would be reviewed. The next City Council meeting will take place on Monday, February 27th at 7pm.