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New version of capital budget strips 'Road' funds

SLAM funding remains at $20M; not fully funded

Posted: April 3, 2013 - 7:24pm  |  Updated: April 4, 2013 - 12:17am

The Senate Finance Committee released its preliminary version of the state capital budget Wednesday morning, with mixed news for communities in Southeast Alaska.

The budget proposal dials back funding for some projects in Juneau, including a request in Gov. Sean Parnell’s draft capital budget for $10 million in funding for the Juneau Access road project, which seeks to extend Juneau’s road system north to Katzehin.

Funding for the State Library Archives Museum, or SLAM, remains at $20 million. Linda Thibodeau, director of the Alaska Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, said that is 40 percent of the amount needed to fully fund the project.

“SLAM needs a total of $50 million to complete construction at our current Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) which is good until June 30, 2013,” explained Thibodeau in an email Wednesday afternoon. “If, by June 30, we don’t have enough money to fund the GMP contract, we will have to renegotiate the bid with the contractor. The risk is that this renegotiation could cause the price of the project to increase because of added subcontractor and commodities costs. We would not be able to award contracts for advance buying and construction of some modular units, so construction could also be delayed.”

Construction began on the SLAM in downtown Juneau in January.

The $10 million request for Juneau Access “is gone,” as Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, put it.

A spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which administers the Juneau Access project, said it is too early in the capital budget process for the department to comment on what effect the proposed lack of funding for that project would have.

Funding requests in Parnell’s draft budget for several other DOT&PF projects in Juneau, including lighting for Egan Drive and reconstruction of a portion of Glacier Highway in Auke Bay, remain intact in the Senate Finance Committee proposal.

Some projects elsewhere in Southeast Alaska that did not have their funding requests included in Parnell’s budget proposal received support, including two building projects that multiple people testified Monday were critical to their communities.

The Senate Finance Committee’s version of the budget adds $2.5 million for the Petersburg police station and jail, responding to testimony that the building is unsafe and needs to be replaced. It also reappropriates about $1.4 million in unspent funds to be used as a grant for the police station.

Ketchikan was also designated for a grant of $10 million — half the amount that several Ketchikaners, including Mayor Lew Williams III, asked for a project to expand and renovate the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, a former Finance co-chair who represents Ketchikan in the Alaska Senate, said he hopes the House Finance Committee adds more for the medical center project.

“I requested $20 (million),” said Stedman, who identified the project as the top priority for his district. “I mean, money’s a lot tighter. ... Hopefully there’ll be some more added on the House side. The House is going to put in some money coming up, so we’ll see what the end number is. Hopefully it’s north of that. It’d be nice to have $14 or $15 (million) in there at the end, if we can’t get the whole $20 (million).”

Two million dollars was cut from Parnell’s $12 million request for an overhaul of ferries and terminals on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The capital budget proposal is one of the smallest in recent years.

The total amount in the Senate version is $2.04 billion, including a supplemental $196.5 million. That compares to a total $1.88 billion, including $28.8 million in supplemental funding, for Parnell’s proposal — an 8.5 percent increase.

The Senate Finance Committee budget proposal includes $911.4 million in unrestricted general funds. With designated general funds included, the amount is just shy of $1.04 billion.

“We did try to maintain the guidelines that we set out, which was to maintain our current assets, finish some of these phased projects that we’d started, and then look for some critical, needed items in various regions and districts throughout the state,” explained Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for the capital budget, during the committee meeting Wednesday morning.

Meyer asked committee members to submit amendments by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’re really not in the mood to add, but if there’s something that was left off that you feel very strongly about, perhaps we can find other areas to make some reductions to fit it in,” Meyer said.

Egan said Wednesday afternoon that he is not satisfied with the version of the capital budget unveiled that morning, but he declined to expand on which projects he would like to see funded in the budget.

“I’m not really happy right now, anyway,” said Egan, who also expressed displeasure over the classification of SLAM funding as local to Juneau rather than statewide.

Stedman said he believes the Southeast region was “treated fairly,” but he cautioned that the capital budget does not encompass all state spending on capital projects. Many bills with hefty fiscal notes are specific to the Railbelt region and other parts of the state, he said.

“You don’t see the whole picture by looking at the capital budget,” Stedman said. “You’ve got to look at the fiscal notes.”

Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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