Municipal remodel design plans progressing; Borough staff brainstorms funding options
Corey Wall from MRV Architects in Juneau presented the latest plans for the municipal building remodel to Borough staff in late July. The plans are currently at the 45 percent mark and Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said the plans may hit the 95 percent benchmark by late summer at which time the Assembly will vote on whether or not to send the project out to bid.
The bulk of the funds for the estimated $9.8 million remodel—some $6.4 million—are already secured through a combination of state legislative grants ($5.2 million) and money allocated by the Assembly through the budget process ($1.15 million), including over $950,000 allocated from the General Fund surplus earlier this year. But while the architects are drafting plans for the structure, Borough staff have been drafting plans to cover the $3.5 million still needed for the project.
“This is still the big question and we definitely do not have an approved answer yet,” Giesbrecht said. “This proposed plan involves allocating the bulk of the remaining money needed for the project from other Borough funds so we do not have to rely on increased taxes or fees.”
Of the Borough funds that are being tapped under the current funding proposal, monies from the Power and Light and Motor Pool funds would provide over $2.2 million for the project. Under Giesbrecht and Finance Director Jody Tow’s proposal, the money withdrawn from those funds would be paid back over the coming decade from the raw fish tax revenue, though that would need to be approved by the Assembly annually as part of the budget. Currently the Power and Light fund balance is $5.7 million and the Motor Pool fund balance is at $4.7 million.
In order for the funding proposal to become a reality it will need a majority vote of the Assembly. Though Assembly members have expressed support for the project, including allocating all of the surplus General Fund monies from the last fiscal year, there hasn’t been a concrete discussion about the source of the remaining needed funds. The issue will be formally considered by the Assembly once the plans have reached the 95 percent mark. At this time the Assembly can approve the funding proposal, request changes or cancel the project entirely.
The remodel won’t increase the size of the overall facility, but the size and location of various departments would be changed. The space for the administration and finance offices will be reduced and moved to the second floor, while the Police Department and jail will move to a renovated and larger space on the first floor. The current facilities for the police and jail have been a cause for concern as the foundation, electric, plumbing and sanitary sewer systems are all failing.
The remodel also includes upgrades to the facility that may reduce energy costs over time including new insulation, triple-paned windows and new mechanical and electrical systems.
The Public Safety Advisory Committee will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in the training room of the Police Department to discuss the project updates. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting and/or to tour the existing facility, especially the Police Department, to see the building’s issues first hand.