City Manager’s Report: Lessons learned at Alaska Municipal League

I attended the AML annual conference in Anchorage Nov. 18‐22 and made connections with city and tribal officials throughout the state. I participated in sessions on topics of importance to Cordova including PERS reform, Alaska Marine Highway status, working with National Park Service and National Forest Service, and online sales tax collection.

I learned of AML sponsored programs for member communities including Investment Pool, Health Benefits Association and Joint Insurance Association, which will be evaluated for possible benefits to Cordova.

AML membership passed the following resolutions of importance to Cordova which will be part of AML advocacy work in Juneau during the upcoming legislative session.

  • Urging the Legislature to override the Governor’s $5M veto of Alaska Marine Highway System funding.
  • Opposing any further reduction to the Alaska Marine Highway system budget and supporting reform that is sustainable and responsible to the needs of coastal communities.
  • Supporting Legislative approval of a coastal infrastructure general obligation bond for harbor improvements
  • Supporting development of a Community Dividend to replace revenue sharing, fund local contributions to education and reimburse local governments for State tax exemptions.
  • Supporting full funding of school bond debt reimbursement.
  • Supporting one‐time payoff of PERS arrearages and reform of PERS to include complete pay down of unfunded liability and that high interest rate on non‐payment be eliminated.
  • Supporting changing the transferability of limited entry salmon permits by allowing an additional name on the permit.
  • Supporting reform of USDA/Forest Service Rural Schools program to include long‐term certainty and sustainability of funding.

Birch Horton Bittner and Cherot

I met our attorney Holly Wells and we discussed how the city can be better served by BHBC. Wells suggested she would like to participate in Council meetings more regularly and to provide board/staff training on the Open Meetings Act and other laws unique to local government.

Health Insurance Renewal

Fejes and Associates, the broker for our employee health insurance program, has been working on the city health plan renewal for FY2020. After getting quotes from other providers, they recommendation

staying with our existing medical carrier. Cordova is in the enviable position of not having a premium increase in five years due to the health of our employee pool.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust

Louise Stutes mentioned at her Cordova town hall meeting that EVOS is looking into sunsetting its programs and funding. She did not have any details of the plan, but I did a bit of research and learned the following:

A Think Tank was convened by Rasmuson Foundation with support from former Gov. Bill Walker and former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott to explore whether there is a better way to spend the approximately $186M remaining in EVOS while staying true to the intent articulated in the settlement documents establishing the Trust in 1991.

The Think Tank has recommended that the balance of EVOS funds be allocated to the Alaska Community Foundation for continued focus on research and habitat acquisition/restoration. The Think Tank has recommended that $20M each be committed to operating endowments for PWSSC, Alutiiq Museum and Chugach Heritage Foundation and $34M to the Alaska Sealife Center. After those allocations, the balance of the funds is recommended to be used for water habitat, land trusts, land and natural resource education, local community fisheries vitality, infrastructure restoration, archeological and cultural resource projects, and habitat protection on small land parcels.

The Think Tank report has been presented to the EVOS Trustees for consideration. The report is available for download on the EVOS website. There has not yet been a community engagement process on these recommendations and no decision has yet been made.


Helen Howarth is the Cordova city manager. Reach her at citymanager@cityofcordova.net.