This is the second of two-part coverage of the mayoral and assembly candidate question and answer forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Sept. 27 as part of its weekly lunch lecture series.
Assembly candidate Dixie Hood, running for the District 2 seat against Jerry Nankervis, had not yet filed for her candidacy at the time of the Chamber’s forum. However, Ms. Hood’s candidate profile will be posted on our website tomorrow.
Q: How have you worked with neighboring SE communities during your time in Juneau?
Cheryl Jebe: As a field representative for Alaska Public Employees Association I visited every work location in the Southeast and held meeting regarding work issues in each community. I also worked with public health nurses and they have a health center in Southeast communities. With this experience in Southeast Communities I believe I would be able to work with them well.
Merrill Sanford: Last year I was awarded the citizen of the year award from the Chamber of Commerce. This year I was awarded the Presidents Service Award down in the Southeast Conference. Important awards that show that I was committed to our region not only the City and Borough of Juneau. Southeast communities, we are all working towards basically the same goals to improve our demographics, improve our economic situation and improve populations.
Jerry Nankervis, Assembly District 2: I’ve been with the police department for almost my entire career before I began fishing last year. Mostly agency assist stuff. I would travel to communities or help those communities that need to interview somebody in our town. We need to try and dispel the myth that we are an isolationist and elitist community in the Southeast. We need to be the hub for Southeast and we need to embrace it.
Loren Jones, Assembly District 1: From ‘85 to ‘86 I was the constituent aide for Rep. Peter Goll, representing communities from Yakutat to Metlakatla. Being a constituent aide is like being a social worker for communities. Spent 13 years as Director for the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, an agency which operates throughout the state. I serve on the Catholic Community Services board of directors, which offers services from Yakutat to Ketchikan.
So I have had a lot of experience in local communities.
Paul Nowlin, Assembly District 1: Worked in the other parts of Southeast have not worked with them in the manner this question is asking.
However, I do feel Southeast is as much my home as Juneau is and that we are responsible to help them out and that Juneau is the big brother.
Q: Public facilities such as the Valley pool and the hospital expansion are currently charged permit inspection fees the City and Borough of Juneau. These fees add 25 percent or more to the construction costs. Would you support capping inspection fees at a maximum of $10,000 and waiving permit fees for construction of CBJ projects in order to lower the construction cost burden to the public?
Sanford: I would look at that. I don’t know whether it would be $10,000 or $15,000 or $5,000. Definitely need to reevaluate how we do business now. The permitting center needs to be looked at in depth. Look out of the box. As and example, Anchorage just passed an ordinance that is going to let us not double inspect our buildings with our current licensed designers and architects.
Nankervis: I’m not sure that I would limit capping fees. It is going to cost something to inspect it. Money for inspections has to come from somewhere. If not through permitting process, it will come through the taxing process.
Jones: While on the hospital board ran into issues with the hospital paying for CBJ engineering services, architectural services the inspection services. Our alternative was to hire someone to do it instead. This just shifted costs.
I don’t particularly want to be in a hospital or building that hasn’t been properly inspected.
Nowlin: It does seem a little silly for the city to charge itself. However it does cost money, people have to be paid. Possible solution would be more efficient use of CBJ inspectors’ time.
Jebe: The Docks and Harbor’s board solution for the engineering cost was to hire their own engineer. But the costs were still there, we still had an employee. It is a difficult that we are going to have to address.
Q: What would you do if elected to improve city permit for private development in order to streamline service and lower cost?
Nankervis: I’m not sure what I would do to streamline that process. What I do hear from talking to people, I believe the atmosphere and philosophy has to change within the city to ‘how can I help you make that work?’ As opposed to putting up ‘nope that is not going to work.’ More working with to make things happen instead of having us feel like it’s a roadblock.
Jones: I’ve heard a lot during the last few weeks sitting in on the Assembly. In a budget survey the community development department took the most heat.
I think that most of us appreciate some sense of safety if we know that somebody is looking out that a development or project is not going to interfere with our property values and our neighborhood. It’s going to be safe for those who participate in it.
Pay for that through government, okay, or pay private sector to do that, I guess we can look at that. But to try to streamline the process without looking at safety, I think, is foolish.
Nowlin: The permitting process should police the issues. But they should be more helpful. We shouldn’t have to go down there multiple times when it can be avoided. This will lower costs because they will not have to deal with the public as much. It they would help them get their permits rather than being a roadblock.
Jebe: Four years ago the League of Women Voters sent out a survey to all people who asked for permits in the previous year. Customer service was the biggest complaint. They didn’t mind occasional waits, they wanted to know why. If we can lower staff time by offering better service then it should cost less.
Sanford: This has been an ongoing problem. We tried to address this a couple years ago by redoing engineering and community development. As long as your community development department thinks that they are policing, that they are making you safe and that you can’t use licensed architects and licensed engineers in our state, if you can’t use those to the end yes to building there is something wrong with our system.
We are giving another level of government to the process that doesn’t have to be there. Right up front let the people know what they need so they don’t have to wait months for their permit.
To us, the business community, time is of the essence. To the government people it is not.
Q: Changes to the state education funding formula provided the city with a $2 million surplus. Do you support using the windfall to pay down public debt, building up our reserves, or should it just go to the general spend (sic) and spent?
Jones: The $2 million this year allow the assembly to do things that help with the budget shortfall for the year. It allowed the city to keep the property tax rate at exactly where it was last year. It also helped fund needed maintenance work. In that sense it did go into the general fund.
If could be used to put in our reserves, especially if the bond issue were to fail.
But I think the assembly took a fairly reasonable approach to the $ 2million windfall.
Nowlin: Even though the assembly didn’t make it work giving back to the school district would have been my first thought too.
It should not just go into a general fund and be spent. If we have extra money lying around we are looking for somewhere to spend it and we do have bills to pay.
Jebe: If bond issue doesn’t pass we will need it for reserves. Because we need to keep bonding rating up. I would probably pay down the debt first and then extra would go to the general fund.
Sanford: The only reason we had $2 million, if your want to call it, extra is because we went through the budget process and came up with educational spending to the cap and beyond a little bit, which is good. We want our kids to be the best and have the best education possible. When we get a windfall from the state we need to look at giving some of that back to the property tax people. I try to get half of that to go back to lowing property taxes and half to go to different things that are needed.
Nankervis: I’m not a big fan of putting money set aside for a specific thing into the general fund. That doesn’t work too well. The tendency in any government is if money is there you’re going to will spend it. I think if the money was for education, set that aside somewhere, salt it away somewhere, let it earn interest and give it back in the next budget cycle.
CBJ's mayoral and assembly elections take place Tuesday.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.