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City leaders question transit plan change

Rapidly aging population, alcohol top health concerns

Posted: January 14, 2014 - 1:06am

City leaders expressed concern Monday night over a final recommendation for an update to the Capital Transit Plan because a number of desired additions failed to make the cut.

Namely, the final plan does not include extending service to the Costco area or the ferry terminal, and there is no allowance for a downtown circulator.

The challenge for the consultants and project management team was that the Assembly asked for an update that wouldn’t cost more money.

“To meet some of these demands, it will take a very different way in how transportation is funded,” said Ben Lyman, a city planner involved with the project.

The recommendation includes a set of short-term (immediately recommended) updates and mid-term updates that are considered important but were too costly for the short-term list.

Servicing the Lemon Creek Industrial area and the ferry terminal were listed as mid-term items. The downtown circulator was not, largely due to its high cost.

“It boils down to dollars and cents,” Mayor Merrill Sanford said. “Now we need to figure out how to get the dollars to do it all. Just the $200,000 to do the minimum is going to be a big challenge.”

Dixie Hood, a member of the Juneau Commission on Aging, said city leaders need to consider adding holiday service to the list of short-term objectives.

“A lot of seniors can no longer drive, and they want to get with friends and family on the holidays but there is no way to get there,” Hood said. “You also have employees who work on the holidays, so it has an economic plus for businesses as well as helping seniors and persons with disabilities.”

The Assembly met Monday night as the Committee of the Whole. The transit plan was forwarded to the Assembly, where it will be sent to the Finance Committee for further evaluation.

 

Aging, alcohol top health concerns

Alaska is the fastest aging state in the country, and Juneau is the fastest aging community in the state, according to Matt Felix, a researcher for the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.

“Elderly people have a lot of needs, and as our aging population grows, it’s going to impact the health care system,” Felix said. “A lot of people are staying here and retiring here — and not a lot of young people are moving here but a lot of young people are migrating out.”

In fact, it is estimated that a quarter of Juneau’s population will be 60 or older by 2020, Felix said.

“It used to be this town was full of kids with few seniors, but now it’s swung the other way,” Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis said.

Alcoholism was listed as the top health concern in the Juneau Healthy Indicators Report presented at the meeting.

Approximately three gallons of alcohol is consumed per capita annually in Juneau while the national average is 2.3 gallons. In the summer months, Juneau’s rate increases to 3.4 gallons per capita.

“It’s on everybody’s mind, there’s just not a clear path for the Assembly to take action on the issue,” Assemblyman Carlton Smith said. “We do want to start a conversation and ask questions about the issue.”

A positive trend for Alaska’s capital city is the decreasing amount of smoking by the city’s youth, according to the report.

“Young people aren’t smoking as much as the older population,” Felix said. “As that population gets older and dies out, statistically you’re going to see that problem fall.”

Because smoking has been connected to numerous health problems later in life, a declining rate is a very good sign, Felix added.

“There’s really promise on the horizon for this one,” he said.

• 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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