The Marine Street Substation serves 80% of Sitka customers. At the Assembly meeting on Tuesday night (11-24-15), Electrics Department director Bryan Bertacci explained why the failure of the substation transformer is imminent.

The Sitka Electric Department is concerned about more power failures, due to aging transformers at the Marine Street substation. The primary transformer – which converts the power of the Blue Lake dam to usable energy for Sitka – is 35 years old.

Bryan Bertacci is the department’s director. He explained the problem to the assembly on Tuesday. “Most  of those units have failed by 35 years and statistically, 100 of them have failed by 50 years. So in the next 15 years, we can absolutely expect failure of those transformers.””

The spare transformer, intended to be back-up system, failed during a test last Monday (11-16-15). Since the Marine Street substation provides power to 80% of Sitka, Bertacchi says it’s critical the city devote resources toward rebuilding the spare now. If the primary transformer fails before that happens, the results could be extensive power outages. Bertacchi said, “We’re looking at potentially a 20-week period of rotating outages that would be two hours on, four hours off for everyone that’s served out of that marine street substation.”

To minimize this risk, Bertacchi announced that the department declared an emergency and is expediting the delivery of that spare transformer.

The Sitka Assembly also voted this week to give regulatory power to the citizen-led Marijuana Advisory Committee. The committee will now act as the city’s Local Regulatory Authority –or LRA — through February 24th, 2016, crafting local policy that complies with the state’s regulations.

Chair Levi Albertson encouraged the Assembly to retain members of the group for the permanent LRA. “Appointing anybody else as the LRA would be basically starting from Square 1, which I don’t think anybody wants to do. Any forward progress that we already made should be built upon, rather than starting over with a different body,” Albertson said.

Those regulations have to pass judicial review and win the approval of Lt. Governor Byron Mallott before they are official. The Assembly also appointed Jay Stelzenmuller to the committee, after member Kitty Sopow resigned.

During his report, municipal administrator Mark Gorman said construction of a pool at Mt. Edgecumbe High School will begin in April. The pool will include a climbing wall and a slide.

Gorman hopes it could one day serve as the community’s only pool. He said, “I think it’s probably not too early to start having conversations with MEHS as that pool comes online. Maybe it’s time to transition out of the Blatchley Pool. That has a lot of deferred maintenance. And I just don’t think – the way budgets are trending – that we can afford the luxury of two pools.”

The Assembly also gave Mayor Mim McConnell the green light to join a panel about Alaska’s fiscal future. The event will take place on December 3rd from 12pm to 2pm at the Sheetka Kwaan Naa Kahidi and include a presentation of the Governor’s budget solutions by Pat Pitney, state budget director.Raven Radio will host Pitney on the Morning Interview at 8:16 a.m. that day.