Assembly preps seed money for Dimond Park pool

Sustainability fund would provide loan for geothermal heat

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Juneau Assembly introduced ordinances Monday that would seed a city sustainability fund with $2 million and immediately make it available as a no-interest loan for an energy saving ground-source heat pump system at the future Dimond Park Aquatic Center.

The fund has had a zero balance since the Juneau Sustainability Commission was created in 2007 to research sustainability issues and advise the Assembly. Commission members at a meeting last week expressed eagerness that the Assembly was finally making a monetary commitment to get sustainability initiatives going, even if it's not a lump sum at their disposal.

The proposal introduced Monday diverts $2 million from sales tax revenue earmarked for capital improvement projects.

The ordinances must go before the Assembly a second time in a public hearing for final approval.

The loan is expected to be repaid in a maximum of 10 years at a rate of about $200,000 a year - the savings the heat pump system is expected to create.

The base pool design has an estimated price of $19.8 million, of which city voters approved $14.5 million in 2007. Another $5.2 million in state money is also expected for the base design.

But city officials also want the aquatic center to have the geothermal system, estimated to cost $2 million more than a conventional heating system.

A $1 million resistance channel, which generates an artificial current in a designated part of the pool, is also wanted by a committee tasked with designing the pool. Consultants said it would drive up attendance and revenue.

Officials applied for $1.5 million with the Rasmuson Foundation for the extras, but only received $500,000 for the resistance channel.

Another grant request for $1.5 million for the heat pump went to the Alaska Energy Authority; their grants are subject to legislative approval and results are expected this month. If that money comes through in whole or part, it would likely offset the proposed loan against the sustainability fund.

• Contact reporter Jeremy Hsiehat 523-2258 or e-mail

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