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Electricity cut at Angoon water treatment plant

Company says city owed $17,000 before shutdown

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2007

Word got around Angoon fast. Save water in any container available: The treatment plant shut down.

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The Inside Passage Electrical Cooperative, or IPEC, cut power to Angoon's city government and services Tuesday. The result stalled the water treatment facility, paralyzed the fire department and left the residents without cable.

Angoon Mayor Walter Jack said the city owed the utility $17,000 at the time of the shutdown. He would not comment on how or why the city's power bill went unpaid.

"We don't need to highlight what goes on in Angoon," Jack said. "We get things quietly done."

Vern Rauscher, general manager of the electrical cooperative, said Angoon was overdue on payments for nine of its services, including water. Five of those were eventually shut off.

Rauscher said that the cooperative generally will not cut services until a customer is three months past due.

"It is the first time they have been disconnected. I wouldn't necessarily say this is the first time they have been late (in paying)," he said.

Jack blamed the local economy.

"We need jobs here so people can pay the city," he said.

Shayne Thompson, president of Angoon Trading Co., found out about the shutdown when employees from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium visited his store hoping to buy all the water on the shelves.

Every customer wanted to buy all the water, Thompson said. "It happens every time the water shuts off."

By Thursday the power was back on as Jack sat at his office desk writing yet another check to the cooperative. The city is paid through July, he said.

Jack said members of the community came through to help pay the bill. Sources say it was the local business community that bailed out the city.

In Angoon an electric bill for $17,000 is not unfathomable: At 62 cents per kilowatt-hour, electricity costs nearly six times what Juneau pays.

Thompson's company runs the only store on the island. The monthly bill at the Trading Co. hovers near $2,500 in the summer months, and goes higher in winter.

"IPEC rhymes with OPEC," Thompson said.

"Look at how we charge ourselves," said Ed Gamble Jr., city councilman and tribal leader. Gamble is simply disappointed that prices are so high.

Many in the Native island community question their leadership in city hall, saying that the recent crisis was an example of larger problems and bad business sense.

"It is amazing that they let it go so far," Thompson said.

• Juneau Empire reporter Brittany Retherford contributed to this story. Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com



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