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Library a big winner in Finance Committee wrangling, but some projects less fortunate

Posted: July 4, 2012 - 12:02am

Supporters of the Dimond Park Library project were given cause to rejoice on Monday when the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee recommended that its funding request be fully met by a five-year extension of the 1 percent special sales tax.

Juneau Public Libraries asked the Assembly for $4.7 million to help fund the project, which would see the Mendenhall Valley Public Library moved out of the Mendenhall Mall commercial development and relocated to a building yet to be constructed on Riverside Drive.

“This is good for us, I think, to be on the sales tax,” said library director Barbara Berg. “That’s what the Friends of the Library had been working for all along.”

But not all of the high-profile projects that requested funds from the sales tax fared as well.

Out of $5 million requested from sales tax revenues for the Juneau Arts and Culture Center’s Performing Arts and Culture Center, the committee recommended only $1 million be allocated.

“It would have been nice to have been considered for a little bit more than that, but I’m pleased to be included in the list (of allocations),” said Nancy DeCherney, executive director of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, which manages the JACC. “We will make the best of it. … This is a step forward, as far as I am concerned. And we’ll keep working.”

While only $500,000 was cut from Centennial Hall’s request of slightly more than $3.7 million, its funding was bundled into a $25 million bond issue. Provided the Assembly approves Mayor Bruce Botelho’s intent language, the Centennial Hall project will still receive $3 million even if the bond fails.

Brent Fischer, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said funding at the $3 million level would prompt the department to evaluate what renovations it could afford.

“We’ll wait to see what the funding is and then go from there,” Fischer said. “I think it’s very safe to assume that we’ll be looking at either safety issues or deferred maintenance first, and then cosmetic after that.”

Parks and Recreation’s request for Capital School Park improvements was slashed from $500,000 to $150,000. Botelho’s proposal last week originally called for it to be funded at the even lower level of $50,000, but Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl interceded to restore $100,000 to the allocation last Thursday.

Kiehl said Tuesday that he lives and works near the park and is concerned about health and safety there, due to old playground equipment and occasional icy conditions.

“In the wintertime … groundwater seeps out from behind that retaining wall, and it freezes going across the play areas,” Kiehl said of the park. “I worry about injuries.”

“It is probably the most highly used park in Juneau,” Fischer said. “Typically during (the) school year, we’ll have 100-plus kids out there a day on that field.”

Of the packed dirt field, Fischer added, “Ultimately, we’d like to have a different type of surface.”

While Parks and Recreation originally called for the $500,000 to help construct new restroom facilities at the park, Kiehl said the committee allocated enough money to solve the safety concerns.

Fischer added that the restrooms could be funded by capital improvement programs further down the line.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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