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Thomas Bay Power Authority transfer progresses


The Petersburg and Wrangell Boroughs are a few steps closer to completing the transfer of Operations and Maintenance of the Tyee Lake hydroelectric facility from Thomas Bay Power Authority (TBPA) to Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA) after a meeting last Thursday.

Thursday's regular session meeting brought representatives from the Thomas Bay Power Commission (TBPC) and the Petersburg and Wrangell Boroughs together to elect a new commission chair and secretary, work towards finalizing the SEAPA transition document and discuss the future role of the TBPA.

Petersburg resident Robert Larson, serving on the commission since 2008, was elected TBPA president during the meeting. Bob Prunella of Wrangell, a newly appointed commissioner, was elected vice president. John Jensen, Petersburg resident and TBPA commissioner since 2006, was elected secretary.

The election of new officers comes after former TBPA President James Stough and Secretary David Galla resigned from the six-member panel in June.

Both Petersburg and Wrangell Borough assemblies approved the transfer of the day-to-day operations at the Tyee Lake facility to SEAPA in June. Shortly after, the SEAPA board of directors voted to terminate TBPA's Operations and Maintenance contract for the Tyee Lake facility.

The transfer could be complete as soon as mid-August, though one thing that remains is reaching a collective bargaining agreement between SEAPA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers labor union over TBPA employees' contracts. Once a final agreement is reached, TBPA employees will become employees of SEAPA, which will then be responsible for making future payments to PERS (Alaska Public Employee Retirement System) for the workers.

Of the transition document, SEAPA board member and Petersburg Municipal Power & Light Superintendent Joe Nelson said, “I think it’s a great document. I really do appreciate the work that’s been done by both assemblies... I think it protects the Thomas Bay employees that will now become SEAPA employees.”

The commission recommended that Larson report to both borough assemblies during the transition and that an office in Wrangell continues to be staffed.

The future role of the TBPC was also discussed in the meeting.

“We are going to switch roles for a second,” Larson said. “It’s time that we provided the municipalities of Wrangell and Petersburg with some start of a dialogue regarding the future role of Thomas Bay Power Authority, and the start of a dialogue between this body and those ... I think there is a need, outside of the operating agreement, for Thomas Bay and the transmission line, for a body that addresses power needs and future power needs... and what our scope and duties would be. We need to talk about [it].”

After the transfer to SEAPA is complete, the commission is expected to play mostly an advisory role, especially during future contract negotiations.

The TBPA commission meets again Sept. 9, and the SEAPA board is scheduled to meet Aug. 28.


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