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Assembly hears updates on citywide projects

Voter turnout, water and wastewater rate study among topics at hand

Posted: December 10, 2013 - 12:08am

A City and Borough of Juneau Assembly committee convened Monday night to hear informational updates on five citywide issues and projects currently underway.

Municipal Clerk Laurie Sica kicked off the Assembly Committee of the Whole meeting by addressing how officials can improve voter turnout, especially in light of the historically low turnout for the municipal election in October. The election proved the capital city’s worst ever in terms of voter turnout, with just 19 percent of Juneau’s registered voters casting a ballot. The previous low for a regular election was 26 percent in 2008.

“If we made something available to voters prior to the ballot so they can do their homework, that could help,” Sica said.

Assembly members asked staff to continue exploring ways to improve voter turnout, particularly vote-by-mail methods and social media outreach.

An update was also provided on the Water and Wastewater Rate Study currently being conducted, before the Assembly begins working on Juneau’s budget next year. The study thus far has found both systems are operating at a loss of more than $1.4 million per year.

Increasing rates for water and wastewater is one of the primary means of accounting for that loss over the next decade. When the last rate study was conducted in 2003, however, the Assembly ultimately granted smaller increases than the study suggested.

“There’s a number of substantial increases currently being suggested, but there’s not a list of projects this money would be used for,” Assembly member Mary Becker said.

The committee of the whole then advanced an update to the disturbing of the peace code to the full Assembly for final approval. The update aims to give law enforcement better tools to enforce the current rules, Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl said.

The change includes banning sounds, music or vibrations from vehicles that can be heard from more than 30 feet away at any time. Currently, such noise is only banned from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

Juneau Public Library director Robert Barr told Assembly members that the Mendenhall Valley Library project is moving ahead on schedule.

City staffers are currently evaluating a cost estimate, with 65 percent of the design complete. The final pre-construction cost estimate is expected early next year, Barr said.

Assembly members also requested that the city manager schedule an Assembly meeting with a cruise industry expert as the city looks toward future cruise seasons and any changes that may be looming.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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