August 19 2010The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Sitka Tribe of Alaska are working together to promote Native hire on a construction project in progress at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka. The Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Exterior Envelope Project will replace and/or repair the roof, siding and windows at the hospital. The project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, also known as the stimulus bill), with funds going through Indian Health Service (IHS) Facilities and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) before reaching SEARHC. The general contractor (McGraw Custom Construction of Sitka) and all sub-contractors must provide Indian Preference Plans for employment, since this project is funded by the stimulus through IHS and ANTHC. There are six sub-contractors (hired by McGraw) scheduled to work on various phases of this year-long project. Of those six sub-contractors, most already have had their Indian Preference Plans approved by SEARHC, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the STA Tribal Employment Rights Office (STA/TERO). SEARHC is working with a sub-contractor to complete its Indian Preference Plan so STA/TERO can approve the sub-contractor and it can start its scheduled part of the project in September. All sub-contractors must be in compliance with an approved Indian Preference Plan before they can start work. “We take Native hire very seriously. In order to accept a contractor or sub-contractor for this project, we must have an approved Indian Preference Plan through SEARHC and the STA Tribal Employee Rights Office,” SEARHC President/CEO Roald Helgesen said. The owner(s) and one core staff person from each contractor and sub-contractor are exempt from Native preference requirements, but all other positions are known as preference positions that fall under the Native hire requirements. The contractor and sub-contractors submit job postings to SEARHC and STA/TERO before they are filled. STA/TERO has a database of Alaska Natives/American Indians (AN/AI) broken out by skill and trade, and STA/TERO has referred more than 15 applicants. Currently the overall positions available for Native hire (including exempt owners and core staff) is 50 percent, and for preference positions it is 93 percent Native. SEARHC meets weekly with the general contractor, and at least every other week with STA and STA/TERO to discuss compliance. Concerns were raised about compliance during a Sitka Tribe of Alaska meeting on Wednesday night (Aug. 18), and STA Tribal Chairman Woody Widmark agreed to meet with SEARHC President/CEO Roald Helgesen to discuss tribal concerns. That meeting happened by teleconference on Friday (Aug. 20). “SEARHC and Sitka Tribe, during the teleconference today, agreed that they will continue to work closely to resolve the issues,” Widmark said. Widmark and Helgesen “recognized that SEARHC and STA have been working closer than ever before on Indian preference and understand a fix will not happen overnight.” Widmark encourages any tribal citizens, Alaska Natives or American Indians living in Sitka who want to join the STA/TERO skills bank to contact Roxanne Houston (747-3207) in the STA Education and Employment Department.