City and Borough of Juneau Manager Kim Kiefer gave an update on CBJ activities and answered questions at the Chamber of Commerce lunch lecture series, Thursday at the Moose Lodge.
Kiefer covered topics from the West Douglas development road, to cruise ship berth expansion, downtown revitalization and Juneau’s chronic inebriates issue among other topics.
West Douglas Road
CBJ secured state funds to proceed with design and construction of at least the first 2.5 miles of the road extension down the west side of Douglas Island, Kiefer said (goo.gl/FvHnI). With the funds available, Kiefer said she doubts the seasonal road will get blacktop initially.
“It’s only $3 million,” Kiefer said.
CBJ hopes to scope out the road route by next spring with permitting complete during the summer. The faster the permitting process, the more money will remain for CBJ to spend on building the road. Construction could start as early as 2014.
Though closed in the winter to avoid maintenance costs, Kiefer said the road could be used for other outdoor recreation purposes during the off season.
CBJ is partnering with Goldbelt Corporation, which owns land the road may traverse.
Cruise ship berth enhancement project
The project, known as 16B, would create floating dock infrastructure to allow berthing for up to a 1,000-foot Panamax cruise ship (goo.gl/Blbiu).
Kiefer said the CBJ Assembly plans to have a public hearing on the project at its next meeting, Monday. Specifically the Assembly will discuss the issuance of Port Revenue bonds for the project, not to exceed $29 million. The dock project, she said, will not affect Juneau’s property tax mil levy.
Though the project has been appealed, Kiefer said CBJ staff plans to proceed with requesting the bonds to frontload the process.
“We want to make sure we have the revenue in place so we can move forward,” Kiefer said. If the project goes ahead, the first phase of construction could begin in the summer of 2013. “Therefore it is critical to know we have that funding in place,” she added.
Chronic inebriate housing
“We have a huge problem with inebriates,” Kiefer said.
Alaska’s Mental Health Trust Authority is sponsoring a fact-finding trip to Minnesota for CBJ staff and local organizations during the week of August 27 to learn about the Housing First model. The model provides supportive in house services to chronic inebriates. It is designed to give inebriates a place to live where they can continue to drink alcohol while receiving assistance to move on with their lives.
Kiefer stated that Anchorage and Fairbanks are already using the Housing First model. “In places it has been tried the model can decrease emergency room visits among other benefits,” she noted.
Department of Transportation projects
The CBJ Committee of the Whole will hear updates from the Alaska Department of Transportation on the Auke Bay roundabout project at the COW meeting on Sept 10, Kiefer said.
A chamber member asked Kiefer about her vision for downtown Juneau.
“Downtown is in dire straits,” Kiefer said. She said the make up of the downtown area has changed over the years.
“I go back to when 20th Century super market was downtown,” Kiefer said. “When that went away it changed downtown.”
CBJ and and downtown revitalization groups are working to try to bring people back to the area, Kiefer went on to explain. “An attempt to remodel the 20th Century Gross building for additional residential space (goo.gl/BQmHP) would have been a great project if the deal hadn’t fallen through.”
“Do I have a list of things I think will fix it?” Kiefer queried. “I think if I had that list there would have been a whole bunch of people before me who had that list too, because it is not an easy piece.”
Kiefer said one possibility to enliven the area could be to provide a circulator bus to shuttle people around the downtown area.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.