Assembly extends lobbyist's hire


January 26, 2017 | View PDF

The Haines Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to keep lobbyist Bill Thomas on the job until June, to advertise for a permanent borough manager in Alaska only and to award a $71,000 marine mammal monitoring contract to proHNS, a local engineering firm.

Thomas, 69, is a commercial fisherman and former state legislator who worked last year as borough lobbyist for $45,000. He’ll be paid about $22,000 for a half-year’s work.

Assembly members Tresham Gregg and Tom Morphet opposed Thomas’ hire, saying there wasn’t spending enough in Juneau to justify hiring a lobbyist. Morphet said Thomas was unable to spare the town from cuts to state forestry and public health nurse offices last year.

Member Margaret Friedenauer, who opposed Thomas’ hire last year, said she was comfortable with it this year because Thomas will be given clear direction. “I’m more optimistic about doing it this year because it would be through the legislative session (only) and we have a list of priorities,” she said.

“There’s a lot less money that is going to be coming out this fiscal year,” said assembly member Mike Case, endorsing Thomas. “I think the person who is in there and knows the right contacts and continues to knock on the right doors is going to get a hold of that money.”

Thomas recently returned from Washington D.C., where he said he met with members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation. He said the trip was funded by regional Native corporation Sealaska. Interim borough manager Brad Ryan said Thomas has been focused on Lutak Dock reconstruction funding.

Several fishermen in the audience also spoke for keeping Thomas on. “As a Tlingit Elder and a Vietnam War veteran in my family, and the family I was raised, that has a world of clout. I appreciate his service and everything he has done for the community over the years,” said Haynes Tormey II. “I think we have a really lucky opportunity with his past experiences and his contacts that he has in Juneau.”

In deciding to limit its search for its next permanent manager, assembly members voiced opposition to an idea from Morphet to work with head-hunting firm Brimeyer Fursman to get a list of manager candidates. “I think we owe it to the voters to hire the best manager possible.” He said the borough has gone through a lot of managers that elected officials liked “at first, then after a while we didn’t.”

The borough paid Brimeyer Fursman $27,500 to land police chief Heath Scott and former manager William Seward. The firm offered a guarantee to re-do its search if either Scott or Seward didn’t last on the job 18 months, but the firm told the borough the guarantee had been dependent on a required site visit with Seward in September that didn’t happen.

“I cringe at the thought of going through a Fursman-type experience again,” said assembly member Ron Jackson. “What we got was a lot of good candidates. But that I think we got … You polish your resume and put in it what you think the hiring committee wants to hear. I don’t know if it’s worth it. I think we have two really good candidates here.”

Member Gregg said: “We have two viable candidates in-house, so to speak.” Case said he was ready to hire Ryan on the spot. The assembly voted 5-1 to advertise the job in Alaska for one month.

Mayor Jan Hill broke a 3-3 tie to award proHNS the contract for the marine mammal monitoring, a federal requirement during harbor expansion construction. Assembly members Gregg, Heather Lende and Morphet were opposed, raising questions including that residents who monitor marine mammals professionally were not aware the job was available.

The borough is not required to seek a request for proposals for such professional services. Ryan explained: “It wasn’t an RFP or advertised. We got several inquiries from companies that specialize in it. And we talked to (project engineers) PND. They included it in their admin. They had proHNS as the (subcontractor). ProHNS’ price was a lot better than I had gotten form some quotes and verbal communications from some other firms.”

Lende asked if proHNS had done marine mammal monitoring previously. Ryan responded, “They are going to have to show they have demonstrated people who have marine mammal capabilities. They would have to hire someone who has experience.”

Also at the meeting, Ryan proposed spending $16,000 at Mosquito Lake School on a heating upgrade that would pay for itself in three years. The configuration of the mechanical system requires the air handlers to run continuously, pushing last month’s electric bill to $1,800.

Ryan said facilities staff would install fin tubes that would allow the building to stay warm without the air handler running, reducing the electric bill an estimated $1,000 per month in the winter.

“The center is there; they are using it. We want to try to use it more. If we are going to maintain this building, I’d like to put some cost-saving measures in,” he said.

The assembly asked Ryan to bring more details about an idea he’s pursuing to reducing the municipality’s trash bill by shipping waste to the Lower 48 in a 40-foot container van. If the borough could get 25 tons of waste in a container, that could reduce the borough’s trash bill from $39,000 to about $19,000, he said.

“The idea is that we would have our 40-foot container. We would fill it up, we would send it down,” Ryan said, suggesting that the container would be stored at the waste water treatment plant because it has plenty of space.

Friedenauer made a motion for Ryan to move forward with the solid waste cost-savings plan.

Member Lende asked for more time to decide because she wanted to know how long the container would take to fill up and what neighbors thought of trash being hauled through neighborhoods.

“I don’t see this as a really big deal,” said sssembly member Ron Jackson, “It would be a big bear-proof box out by the smelliest place in town. It’s not going to be a big issue.”

Ryan will bring an implementation plan back to the assembly.


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