The Assembly approved an $8,500 appropriation to enhance security and ADA-accessibility at the front desk of the utility office. Staff have reported a few instances of feeling threatened by members of the public. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The City of Sitka is preparing to negotiate with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium over the potential sale of Sitka Community Hospital. Teams from the City and SEARHC will come to the table on December 6th and December 19th to begin joint negotiations. But first, they are carrying out a two-way due diligence process. Each hospital is requesting extensive amounts of information from the other to figure out what a deal might look like and eliminate any financial surprises.

Downloadable audio.

Consultant Sarah Cave described the due diligence process to the Assembly as a checklist. “SEARHC has requested a lot of information about Sitka Community, as Rob [CEO Rob Allen] has alluded to, but we have our own list of things that we think are critically important to learn about SEARHC,” Cave said.

Neither of these checklists have been released to the public. See the negotiation team’s timeline here: 11-27 CBS Assembly Update (FINAL 112018)

Aside from regular updates at the Sitka Assembly meetings, Cave said the negotiation team may offer brown bag lunches for community members to get more information. Their next update will be at the Assembly’s meetings on December 11th and December 20th.

Sitka Community Hospital CEO Rob Allen also gave a report, noting the strong financial performance of the hospital this year and heavy visitation. “Very busy month in October, after September kind of slowed down. Year to date, we’re at $1.35 million of income, which is $1 million ahead of budget. We’re having quite a few things hitting just right and this is due to changes we’ve made over the past couple years and being busy overall.

Allen added that hospital directors are absorbed in the due diligence process. The hospital has stopped the process of installing a new electronic health records system – called CERNER. The Sitka Community Hospital board voted to cancel that project last month.

On first reading, the Assembly also approved a permitting system for commercial boat work throughout Sitka’s Harbors. The hope is to create a more streamlined system at the Eliason Harbor Drive Down Ramp especially, which gets busy in summertime. An earlier version of the ordinance charged vessels $500 for the annual permit. This new version (Motion and Ord 2018-52S) has no fees.

The Assembly also supported a state application to rename the a new body of water at the head of Redoubt Lake. “Luna Lake” was created during a 2013 landslide, in which Assembly member Kevin Knox and Maggie Gallin escaped, but their dog Luna was never found.

In budget appropriations, the Assembly approved $150,000 to keep working with hospital consultants Sarah Cave and Steve Huebner. They also approved $8,500 on first reading for enhanced security measures at the front desk of the utility office. The money would closing off the open end of the counter, adding security to the employee door, and installing security cameras, while also making the desk more ADA-accessible.

A memo in the Assembly packet (Motion Memo and Ord 2018-54) said there have been instances where members of the public are expressing anger towards actions of the Sitka Assembly or city administration. The memo says staff have “reported multiple instances of feeling threatened by members of the public.’

Many on the Assembly were concerned for the safety of city staff and like Assembly member Kevin Knox, called for civility. “We have to be able to have conversations with each other that are reasoned, but at least civil. For me, what is the sad part about this, is that people are threatening other people in their place of work,” Knox said.

Assembly member Richard Wein mentioned how Sitka was recently named one of the most beautiful cities in America by Conde Nast Traveler. “We are one of 20 most beautiful cities in the United States, but as the song goes, is beauty only skin deep? I think we really need to examine what is happening here in our town and come together over this,” Wein said.

Towards the end of the meeting, the Assembly entered executive session from 7:30 p.m. until 9:15 p.m. to discuss lawsuits facing the Sitka Police Department with outside counsel Michael Gotti and Megan Sandone. The lawsuits were filed by officers Ryan Silva and Mary Ferguson. No public statements nor motions were made in regular session.

Prior to this executive session, Kevin Mosher made a motion for City Administrator Keith Brady to not be in the room for a portion. City Attorney Brian Hanson did not think his dismissal was necessary, but the motion nonetheless passed by a vote of 4-3, with Gary Paxton, Steven Eisenbeisz, and Kevin Knox voting against. Brady was invited into the room at 8:05 p.m.

Then, from 9:20 p.m. until 10:54, the Assembly was in executive session to discuss communications with city attorney Brian Hanson and city administrator Keith Brady about hospital negotiations between SEARHC and Sitka Community. Also in the room were consultants Sarah Cave and Steve Huebner, as well as outside legal counsel Sandy Johnson and Chief Finance and Administrative Officer Jay Sweeney.