The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium kicked off construction of its long-planned hospital expansion earlier this month on Japonski Island. At the Sitka Assembly meeting on Tuesday (6-14-22), SEARHC secured short-term permission to crush its own rock for gravel fill at the construction site.

SEARHC will already be blasting rock on the construction site, but needed extra permission from the city to process the rock. 

Maegan Bosak leads SEARHC’s Lands and Property Management department. She said the permit would reduce traffic in and out of the construction site. Without it they’d need to haul in around 4,500 dump truck loads of gravel from out the road. And she said with Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center nearby, they’d take extra pains to be considerate during construction.

“As you know, our patients are there. This is a healing place, we’re dedicated to ensuring that there’s great practices for healthcare, and so we’ll limit any dust and noise as much as possible,” Bosak said. “However, it is a construction site. And so anticipate that rock crushing will be a noise that’s associated just as loudly as other things that are happening.” 

While hospital construction is planned through 2025, the temporary permit is only in effect from July through the end of this year. Facility director Michael Pountney said of the 150 planned days of construction, they only plan to crush rock for 30 of them.

Assembly member Thor Christianson is the liaison to the Planning Commission. He said the group spent a long time deliberating the proposal before greenlighting it on a 3-1 vote at their meeting early in June. 

“The consensus was that, yes, it’s gonna be kind of loud and dusty, but it’s gonna be loud and dusty over there anyway, and it’ll get the job done faster and cheaper,” Christianson said. “And I think the clencher was the trucks going through downtown.” 

Other assembly members supported the proposal, and were glad that it would reduce traffic through town. But some voiced concern about the hours of operation and the impact it would have on the nearby residential community, particularly Coast Guard Housing. City administrator John Leach is a former Coast Guard commander, and he said many Coast Guard crew members work night shifts. 

“Air crews that sleep during the day so they can fly all night, and same thing with maintenance crews that may be up working the midnight shift to 8 a.m., they sleep during the day,” Leach said. “So I know the Coast Guard will be cooperative with SEARHC and vice versa. So just want to offer that reminder to make sure that cooperation happens.”

The assembly unanimously approved the temporary permit which will be in effect from July through the end of the year.