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Unalaska barges junk to Seattle

June 23rd, 2017 | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

At last week's meeting, the Unalaska City Council approved $275,000 to ship junk vehicles and scrap metal off the island, and discussed separating the fire department from the police department.

The council hired Deforge Marine Towing to take 200 old vehicles and 900 tons of scrap metal to the Port of Seattle.

"The city landfill accepts both scrap metal and junk cars. These items accumulate to the extent that approximately 150 junk vehicles and 800 tons of scrap metal are received per year," said Unalaska Department of Public Utilities Director Dan Winters.

On Sunday, numerous crushed pickup trucks were loaded onto a barge at the Unalaska Marine Center by scrap metal specialist Ron Moore, after arriving on trucks towing flatbed trailers from the city landfill.

According to Winters, "Staff has learned that the only viable way to ship these materials off island is by barge. Loading container vans with the material is an expensive, messy and time consuming process."

The city earlier rejected bids as too high. On April 26, three contractors submitted bids ranging in price from $550,000 to $1,100,000, according to Winters.

The council discussed the pluses and minuses of creating a separate fire department, which is now part of the Department of Public Safety along with the police department. No action was taken, and the matter will be discussed again at another meeting.

Local fire chiefs have been a very transient group, averaging two years on the job for most of this century.

In the past 14 years, the fire department has had seven fire chiefs, and the position is still vacant, though a hiring process is under way. The most recent chief lasted about one week, and was fired because he couldn't show up in Unalaska after he was arrested for sexual assault at his going away party in Illinois. His predecessor resigned under unhappy circumstances. The one before that was just too far away from his family in the Lower 48.

According to city administrators, five towns in Alaska have combined public safety departments, including Sand Point, St. Paul, Dillingham, and King Cove. But another five have separated their previously combined departments: Ketchikan, Palmer, Kodiak, Valdez, and Fairbanks.

Creating an independent fire department would mean a significant initial cost. The fire department's offices would move across town to the Amaknak Station, would require a new records management system projected at between $200,000 and $500,000, new radios and channels, and new photocopiers which are currently shared.

Another option, though not recommended by the city administration, is to hire and train staff to be both firefighters and police officers in a "true combined department."

In other business, the council approved a $1.4 million contract with Northern Alaska Contractors LLC to construct a 35 kilovolt electric power line extension to Westward Seafoods. The municipal electric system "can provide more efficient power at an overall lower cost since the new powerhouse was brought on line," according to Winters.

Jim Paulin can be reached at


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