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Mayor seeks 'lessons learned'

Commission to find what city did right, wrong during crisis

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mayor Bruce Botelho has convened a "lessons learned" commission to find out what Juneau has done right, what it has done wrong, and what it can do better the next time it's hit with an emergency.

The three-member commission will work with two emergency-response consultants to "identify some of the gaps" in actions taken by the city government, the city's private electric utility and other businesses and residents to Juneau's recent energy crisis, Botelho said.

"The point is not to try and make any determination of the culpability, if there is any," Botelho said.

Rather, the mayor said he also wanted the commission "to spend some time thinking" about what future emergencies in Juneau may look like, especially "economic emergencies."

In April, avalanches wiped out part of the transmission line between Juneau and its main source of hydroelectric power. Alaska Electric Power & Light Co., the private utility responsible for maintaining the lines, had to switch to costly diesel fuel to power the city, causing its rates to rise significantly for a month.

There was little disruption in electric service, but businesses and residents scrambled to cut energy consumption to cope with a 447 percent rate increase.

Those high rates "woke everybody up," said Mike Conway, one of the consultants hired to work with the commission.

"My personal confession is: This is not something that I had ever thought about," Botelho said.

He added he wanted the commission to look at other services that Juneau may take for granted, such as its reliance on barges for most of its food and gasoline, and what the city could do to prepare for any disruptions in those areas.

Botelho said the city had plans to cope with disasters that resulted in loss of lives and property, but, to his knowledge, had not done any planning to cope with economic emergencies.

"It's a different kind of species of disaster or emergency," Botelho said.

The commission is chaired by former Mayor Sally Smith. Robert Martin Jr., a vice president at the Goldbelt Corp., and Rick Edwards, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, also will serve on the commission.

David Eley, another consultant, will work for the commission. Conway's and Eley's work will be paid for, in part, by AEL&P.

The commission's first meeting is scheduled later this month at City Hall and will be open to the public.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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