Concerns over spending led the Skagway Borough Assembly to reassess its relationship with one consultant. At its latest meeting, the assembly voted to terminate a number of contracts with Chad Gubala who has worked with the municipality on several projects. The move will change the way the borough manager can work with Gubala.
“We need to clear up and cleanup the situation with this consultant,” said Assemblyman Orion Hanson.
Skagway contracts with Whitehorse-based Gubala on a number of different projects. He directed the Gateway port improvement project, led a waterfront environmental study, a fish habitat project, and he’s served multiple roles in construction of a public safety facility.
The group voted last week to terminate four of those five contracts.
In an email to KHNS, Gubala said three of the contracts were completed successfully some time ago. Apparently the municipality hadn’t officially closed out those agreements. Gubala says the only contract at issue that was not complete was work on the Gateway Project.
That initiative has been in limbo since voters rejected a tidelands lease with White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad in 2015.
Hanson said there needs to be more clarity about where the municipality’s money is going.
“We’re being billed for things all the time, that it’s very unclear as to where it’s coming from and what his relationship is when he’s being asked to do what,” said Hanson.
But assembly member Angela Greiser said “It is not unclear at all.” She pushed back against nixing the contracts. She cautioned the group against making accusations about Gubala’s work and what he’s billing the municipality for.
“We could have asked our staff, our treasurer to see an invoice from him,” said Greiser. “We just need more information before we start accusing people of things.”
Greiser said if the assembly is trying to be more fiscally responsible, they should stick with Gubala who’s rates she said compare favorably with his competition.
“This is a PhD with three degrees, 30 years of experience,” said Greiser. “He knows more of this history of this town, and all the contamination and the harbor and the port and the whole thing better than anyone. And he’s charging us $150 an hour.”
Scott Hahn also said as borough manager he needed support when juggling multiple projects.
“A person only has to look at the bids you receive to manage projects to realize it’s not something you can just slip into 5 percent of my work time,” said Hahn.
Hahn says he is worried about not being able to consult Gubala on issues that come up in Skagway that Gubala hasn’t been contracted to work on. He says it will be hard to remain as responsive on issues as he has been up to this point.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran suggested only ending those contracts that have already been completed.
“I would say that we should terminate the ones that are finished,” said Cochran. “Public safety facility is still ongoing and I think Chad has done a good job on that and the quality of work I think is exceptional.”
Ultimately, the assembly decided to terminate four contracts with Gubala. They spared one for construction oversight on the public safety facility.
Gubala says his work on that contract is nearing completion in ‘good order,’ and he’s looking forward to finalizing it.
The assembly also voted to enter negotiations for new contracts with Gubala for the Pullen Creek Stream Walk project, and a contamination issue on 14th Street.
Gubala hasn’t committed to those projects yet. But, he says he’s open to continuing his work with the municipality.