Who should sand, plow Bristol Bay borough businesses?

Dec 13, 2017

King Salmon-based entrepreneur Bob Egli addressed the Bristol Bay borough assembly at its December 4 meeting, telling the members he would like the borough to eventually stop plowing and sanding local businesses for free.

Bob Egli of Alaska Eagle Eye.
Credit provided

Egli, the owner of Alaska Eagle Eye, said over five years he has grown his capacity large enough to take on most of the private customers between Naknek and King Salmon. Starting with just a junk tent, Egli now has a dedicated sand storage facility with more than 800 cubic yards on hand.

As the weather turned foul in late November, he began running into problems with borough public works.

“In the past two weeks, borough trucks have sanded my customers’ lots when it is Alaska Eagle Eye that is contracted to provide this service. How can I charge my customers for a service that is provided for free by a local government?” he said, adding that his estimated losses for those jobs is over $750.

Egli pointed out he was spending money, too, not just losing revenue.

“We dispatched a truck to do the job and got there to find that the borough was already there, sanding the lot.”

In his public testimony to the assembly, Egli said he estimated that by providing services to some commercial businesses for free, the borough was costing him up to $40,000 in potential contracts this year. He believes that number could more than double if he can continue to grow his business, which he claims is the only private road sanding company in the borough.

Most, but not all, of the assembly members were supportive of finding a solution to support private enterprise.

“You want a clientele that can’t refuse your services, then. I guess I understand it from your business perspective,” said Shelby Boothe. “But if you look at some of the commercial entities around here, they pay a lot of taxes, they contribute a lot to the revenue of this borough.”

Boothe said he would support having the borough not provide services to Egli’s customers, but that he would have to turn over a list of his clients to the borough. Egli said he was not comfortable doing that.

Assembly president Carvel Zimin, Jr., said he believed the borough and Eagle Eye could hammer out a solution in Egli’s favor.   

“I don’t think the borough should be providing services in place of private business. I’ve always said that, and we’ve said that in the past for a lot of other issues,” he said, but added that public safety needed to be reliably provided for.

According to testimony at the meeting, public works uses a “priority list” when plowing and sanding, starting with kiddie bus run routes, then school bus runs, then clearing for police, fire, EMS, elders, people with special needs, then others as possible.

This issue has “come up enough times that maybe we should, as an assembly, look at the list and set those priorities. At least look at it and say yes, we confer, or no we don’t,” said assembly member Mary Swain.

The issues was expected to be addressed by staff between now and the next assembly meeting in January.

dave@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281