The city could spend nearly half a million dollars to build an abandoned vehicle impoundment lot next to the state prison, if the project wins the Juneau Assembly's blessing.
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Fueled by reports of break-ins at the current lot on Juneau International Airport property and the airport's desire to use the land for another purpose, the city hopes to build a half-acre lot next to Lemon Creek Correctional Center for $470,000.
The Juneau Assembly unanimously voted Monday to consider a proposal to do so and scheduled a public hearing on the issue Jan. 29.
The lot would house vehicles that have been abandoned, but are not junkers, City Manager Rod Swope said in a telephone interview before the meeting. The vehicles will be protected by security and a 15-foot fence similar to the one at the prison next door.
Until three years ago, the city had contracted with private towing companies to store abandoned vehicles at their own lots. With rising costs of liability insurance, growing space restraints and environmental hazard concerns, the towing companies stopped bidding for the storing contracts, prompting the city to open an interim lot at the airport, Swope said. The airport was willing to lease the space, which was not being used at the time.
"Almost immediately we started having theft of vehicles, stealing of stereo equipment," Swope said. "That has been an ongoing problem for us."
Swope said the airport is still interested, however, in developing or leasing that piece of airport property.
Airport Manager Dave Palmer said he could not talk about specific details, only that the Airport Master Plan says the area is for rental cars and fuel storage. He said the long-range plan "hasn't changed at all at this point."
Roughly $90,000 proposed for the lot would be used to build a bridge across the creek, Swope said. The bridge also would allow for development of the 120 city-owned acres in the area.
"We also know that city property is good gravel material. We are planning on developing it as a gravel pit," he said.
The new lot would be expected to be completed by late summer.
In other business, the Assembly considered an ordinance allowing the city clerk to conduct special elections "by mail."
Swope said that it was introduced by City Clerk Laurie Sica as an option to be used in the future.
A few boroughs in Alaska already have the option on the books, including Kenai Borough. Kenai Borough Clerk Sherry Biggs said it would help in reaching all voters.
"We have almost 39,000 registered voters here. That might be a little costly to mail out all those ballots (for a special election)," Biggs said in a telephone interview.
"Not everybody reads the newspaper. By mailing a ballot they can't really say, 'Well nobody told me (about an election),'" she said.
Assembly Bob Doll said considerable care needs to be taken when changing the election process.
"My concern is the number of people who will vote early on without hearing the bulk of information," Doll said.
Brittany Retherford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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