At its April 6 meeting, the Borough Assembly held a discussion over engineering contractor Dr. Chad Gubala and a number of open contracts between Gubala’s firm and the municipality.
According to Mayor Mark Schaefer, the issue was “about money, and the lack of accountability for where it is going.”
At the beginning of the discussion, Schaefer said the municipality needed to end the majority of contracts currently that are open with Gubala.
“I think most of these are probably long over with already, but we never really stated that on them,” Schaefer said. “We’ve been spending a lot of money.”
In response, Assembly Member Jay Burnham said that “everything costs a lot of money, especially when you are dealing with complex problems us regular people don’t understand.”
Burnham said in terms of Gubala’s performance, Gubala is getting the job done and doing what is requested of him.
Assembly Member Tim Cochran also voiced appreciation for Gubala’s work.
“The public safety building probably wouldn’t have gone as smooth as it has,” Cochran said. “There was a few glitches, but that wasn’t Chad’s fault.”
In an interview several days after the assembly meeting, Schaefer said his concern in this matter lies with cutting unnecessary costs big and small where possible.
“It’s something I’m going to continue working on with the public and the assembly to make us recognize our limitations,” Schaefer said.
“We want all sorts of things, we need all sorts of things, but there’s going to be limits.”
The conversation on April 6 eventually turned towards a discussion on whether or not the city should investigate hiring an engineer in a full-time capacity.
Borough Manager Scott Hahn said to hire someone full-time, the municipality needs to make sure they hire somebody with the capabilities to handle the work.
Hahn said the position would require more than administrative and planning chops.
“I think you are going to find that to find the kind of person that we need is going to be expensive,” Hahn said.
Assembly Member Angela Grieser said that in a previous year, the municipality was discussing coming up with a contract for Gubala, so he would have a set number of hours per year that he would work for the municipality.
Assembly Member Spencer Morgan said if the borough were to go that route, he’d like to hear from other engineers who might be interested in Skagway’s business.
“It seems like for every engineering service we have, we use Chad as our engineering crutch,” Morgan said.
“Every legal problem we have, we use Bob,” Burnham said in response, speaking about Bob Blasco, the municipal attorney.
Morgan replied that Blasco has a single contract for that work, while Skagway has multiple contracts with Gubala.
Assembly Member Orion Hanson said he’s heard from department heads that they are being asked to analyze their budget numbers, “and this seems like one where we just kind of give a blank check.”
“I’m not saying he’s not doing what he’s been asked to do, I’m saying what he’s being asked to do needs to be clarified,” Hanson said.
The mayor asked City Clerk Emily Deach to put the matter on the assembly’s next meeting agenda for further discussion.
In a phone interview, Gubala said that two of the contracts that were before the assembly on April 6 – one on Lillegraven Creek fish passage improvements and one overseeing a geotechnical assessment – were old and already accomplished.
“These could have been taken off the books a while ago, because they were basically done and done,” Gubala said.
Gubala said it is a privilege working in Skagway, and hopes to continue to do so. He said that he was proud of the work he’s done for the city
“The assembly has free right to discuss issues in the matter that they wish to,” Gubala said. “I work and report directly to the manager for the municipality. Everything I do is under contractual basis; he reviews everything with great scrutiny.”