The state is once again looking to move the Wildlife Trooper patrol vessel Stimson from Unalaska to Kodiak. And this year, the change seems poised to go through.
Officials in Unalaska fought hard to hang on to the troopers’ biggest vessel when the move was on the table a year ago. But this time around, city manager Chris Hladick says they’ve had to reconsider their priorities.
"I just don’t see us, with this budget climate, being able to save everything," Hladick says.
Moving the 156-foot P/V Stimson to Kodiak would save the state almost half a million dollars, says Wildlife Trooper Col. Steve Bear. It’s either that, or cut three jobs -- meaning, he says, the transfer is all but a done deal.
"I think everybody realizes that during these tough economic times, some of the politics that may have saved projects like this in the past just aren’t going to happen," Bear says.
The savings with moving the Stimson come mostly in salary and housing costs. Bear says their employees in Unalaska make 60 percent more than those in Anchorage, because of the high cost of living. They also live in state-leased housing at around Anchorage rates.
If the Stimson’s five-person crew, their families and one of Unalaska’s two troopers moved to Kodiak, they would take a pay cut -- and would have to find their own housing.
It would also mean a loss of several students from Unalaska’s schools, which are already running a deficit due in part to declining enrollment.
But Bear says the Stimson’s mission wouldn’t really suffer. In fact, he says they’ve planned around added fuel and travel costs.
"We could move the boat, sail an additional 27 days, and we’d still save about $480,000 a year by doing that," he says.