In a 16-minute special meeting Thursday afternoon, the Docks and Harbors board of directors recommended the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly appropriate $1.5 million from the Harbor Fund for improvements to Aurora Harbor.
The meeting, the first for recently appointed member David Logan, was quick and to the point.
Port Director Carl Uchytil outlined Docks and Harbors’ need for the $1.5 million from the Harbor Fund, which will help match an Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities grant.
“We need the money to match the $2 million, which is part of the municipal harbor matching grant program,” said Uchytil, referring to the state’s Municipal Harbor Facility Grant Program.
Uchytil said $500,000 “has previously been allocated from the Assembly as part of marine passenger fees. … Those two sums will be our $2 million to move forward with the $4 million design project for phase one of Aurora.”
The appropriation is more than half the amount Uchytil said is available from the Harbor Fund.
“Right now, in our Harbor Fund account, we have $2.6 million,” Uchytil explained. “We would need $1.5 million from our Harbor Fund, bringing our balance down to about $1.1 million.”
On July 2, the Assembly Finance Committee voted to recommend that a $7 million funding request from Docks and Harbors for the Aurora Harbor project be fulfilled through a $25 million bond issue, but also recommended intent language diverting $7 million from an extension of the 1 percent special sales tax to the project in case the bond issue is rejected by voters in October.
“As long as one of the two ballot initiatives is passed, we will have $7 million, which will be more than half of the Aurora Harbor project,” Uchytil told the board. “Ideally, it would be best for us if it passed in the transportation bond, because my understanding is that we’d have access to that money immediately, as opposed to the 1 percent sales tax initiative, where everybody who wins is going to be saying, ‘Hey, I want that right away.’ It’s a five-year collection, so you don’t know where you’ll be in the pecking order.”
Other major items in the bond issue, per the Finance Committee’s recommendation to the Assembly, include $6.9 million for renovation of the Juneau International Airport terminal, $3.5 million for the proposed Eaglecrest Ski Area Learning Center and more than $3.2 million for Centennial Hall renovations and upgrades.
Project requests the Finance Committee recommended be fulfilled by a sales tax extension include $5 million for deferred Parks and Recreation building maintenance, $4.7 million for the proposed Dimond Park Library and $3.1 million in matching funds for a Snow Removal Equipment Facility at the airport.
Michael Williams, the board’s chairman, expressed pleasure at funding being lined up for the first two phases of the Aurora Harbor rebuild, which is estimated to cost $18 million in total.
“This has been a long time coming, just trying to get a foothold, or … a beginning, on Aurora Harbor,” said Williams, just before the board unanimously adopted the motion to recommend the appropriation. “It’s a start, and it’s a good start. And it definitely needs it.”
The board also adopted, without objection, a motion recommending the Assembly award lowest bid to Trucano Construction for the first phase of a cruise terminal staging area improvement project. Trucano’s bid was for just shy of $2 million, less than half the engineer’s estimate of $4.1 million for the project.
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