Project Spotlight

Upper Tanana Health Center

Union job site in Fairbanks, Alaska
Setting SIPs on a mechanical suite on a warm February morning, 5 degrees below zero.

“This has been a challenging project. Getting supplies to this remote location has been difficult at times. Our great crew worked throughout the winter to stay on schedule. It was -40°, we had record snow levels and windstorms, and then COVID-19, but we are still on schedule for an October completion. I couldn’t be more proud of this crew.”
–Bill Sisson, superintendent

Two hundred miles southeast of Fairbanks, AK is the small city of Tok. The Tanana Chiefs Conference, a confederation of 42 tribes, are building a medical center that will bring wellness services to the indigenous people in this vast region of the Alaska wilderness. The TCC covers 235,000 square miles of interior Alaska (slightly smaller than the state of Texas).

When finished, the facility will have trauma rooms, full X-ray capabilities, dental and ophthalmology services, and a drive-through ambulance bay. Tanana Chief Conference provides comprehensive health services to beneficiaries in the Interior of Alaska from addiction recovery to women’s health.

Union carpenters work to tye rebar for concrete on foundation walls on job site.
Third year apprentice Oleg Vasilik (LU 1243) tying rebar for foundation walls.

“It would be a small hospital if it had patient beds,” said Bill Sisson, superintendent on the job and a member of Local 1243 Fairbanks. The contractor is Johnson River Enterprises, LLC.

“The design of this 16,000 square foot facility is unique,” continued Sisson. “It incorporates radiuses, high/low points in a parapet wall, metallic siding, and an exposed aggregate river running through the regular sidewalk.

Since high school, Sisson has been a carpenter and worked all kinds of jobs from fish hatcheries, to hotels, to ski resorts. He has been with Johnson River for four and a half years and enjoys the diversity of the work they do.

“This has been a challenging project,” continued Sisson. “Getting supplies to this remote location has been difficult at times. Our great crew worked throughout the winter to stay on schedule. It was forty below, we had record snow levels and windstorms, and then COVID-19, but we are still on schedule for an October completion. I couldn’t be more proud of this crew.”

Essential union job site in Fairbanks Alaska
Finishing touches on the radius foundation wall before concrete placement.

Robert Paul Jr, LU 1243, is one of the carpenters on the project. He heard about the job when he was doing maintenance work in the native village of Tanacross, 12 miles away. He went into the Tanacross Village Council office, filled out the paperwork, talked with Sisson, and went to work shortly after the job got underway mid-July.

“I am happy to be part of this job because it will help my people,” he said. Paul is a member of the Tanacross Athabascan tribe. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and earned a certificate in Construction Trades Technology. “Johnson River Enterprises is great to work for, and I’m getting to know other union members.”

John Isaac is also a member of the Tanacross Athabascan tribe and earned a certificate in Construction Trades Technology from UA Fairbanks. “I like that this work is close to home, and the company has treated me really well,” he said. “When I needed time off for a family emergency, Bill Sisson worked with me to make sure my family was taken care of.”

Union carpenters work on exterior wall framining in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Exterior wall framing followed by SIP installation. Foreman Charles Smoke LU 1243) on the ground and Carpenter Mel Milk and Levi Tucker (both LU 1243) in the basket.
Union carpenter standing wall studs in the Alaska cold
Second year apprentice Raziel Nelson (LU1243) standing wall studs.

“I’ve worked for non-union residential contractors that weren’t as accommodating to their crew. I love being part of the union. I can’t imagine ever working non-union again.”

Drone footage of the Tanana Health Center on July 17, 2020.


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