February 20, 2014 | Vol. 40, No. 8

Petersburg and Wrangell support SEAPA takeover of Tyee plant

The Petersburg Borough assembly unanimously approved a resolution supporting a similar Wrangell resolution recommending the operations and management of the Tyee Hydro Electric project be transferred from Thomas Bay Power Authority (TBPA) to the Southeast Alaska Power Authority (SEAPA).

Six commissioners representing Wrangell and Petersburg currently conduct management and operations of TBPA. SEAPA owns the hydro plant.

The joint resolution, in part, accepts SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson’s August 19 offer to take over operations at TBPA.

As part of the conversion plan and Acteson’s offer, the resolution states that current TBPA employees should be kept whole as it relates to wages and benefits through the conversion process and that SEAPA be responsible for TBPA Public Employee’s Retirement System (PERS) unfunded liability—a cost totaling more than $750,000 between two current TBPA positions.

Wrangell’s resolution also states that, if a candidate is available, he or she should first be chosen from Wrangell’s borough assembly to sit on SEAPA’s board of directors.

The resolution also states that non-net billable costs—administrative portions of the TBPA budget—that the Wrangell Borough has been paying in full since the Petersburg Borough Assembly voted to stop funding—be shared until the conversion is complete.

Assembly member Cindi Lagoudakis questioned whether or not the roughly $55,000 sum had been budgeted.

Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said the borough has a $50,000 deposit with the city and borough of Wrangell that was deposited years ago to help their cash flow related to Wrangell processing payroll for the Thomas Bay employees.

“The plan is to use that deposit, which has been sitting there for many years, to fund this portion,” Giesbrecht said.

Using that fund is subject to assembly approval.

Giesbrecht and Mayor Mark Jensen met last week with Wrangell City Manager Jeff Jabusch to discuss the next steps involved in the transition. Giesbrecht said, according to Jabusch, a transition date could take place as soon as June of this year.

“That’s entirely up to SEAPA,” Giesbrecht said. “They may get this joint resolution and have additional things that we haven’t thought of or changed their mind and we’re back to square one.”

Acteson said last fall that rates wouldn’t increase should SEAPA take over operation and maintenance of TBPA.

The Tyee Plant is located 40 miles southeast of Wrangell.

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