The Juneau Assembly decided to solicit bids for a second high school Monday after much discussion about whether that would compromise the democratic process of a ballot initiative opposing construction.
In the end, Assembly members voted 5-4 to proceed with preparing bids for site work for a second high school. The city would solicit bids no later than March 31. Bids would be due 10 days after the special election. The bid documents for site work are ready, said Assembly member Stan Ridgeway, who offered the motion.
"What the voters of Juneau voted for (in previous elections) is to proceed with the process," Ridgeway said.
Besides Ridgeway, voting in favor to solicit bids were Assembly members Dan Peterson, Jim Powell, Randy Wanamaker, and David Stone.
Other Assembly members favor the school but worried that soliciting bids before the election would compromise the democratic process. Proponents of the initiative are trying to block construction of a second high school until certain criteria are met. They garnered enough signatures - certified Friday - to make the ballot.
The initiative says the Assembly shall not invite or award bids to construct a new high school or associated site work until the existing high school has 2,100 students and the source of at least $1.67 million of the school's operating funds is identified.
But City Attorney John Hartle said that language was not law because the initiative has not been passed by voters.
Earlier, the Assembly defeated an ordinance that mirrored the initiative and set a special election for May 25.
The Assembly heard public comments about the ordinance by members of the public who mostly favored the second school.
Jeffrey Bush said the public would be "disenfranchised" by the ballot initiative because voters approved $50 million in bonds in 1999. Voters approved another $12.5 million in bonds in 2003. Bush, a former school board member with a child in high school, suggested the city receive and review site work bids but wait to award a bid package until after the election.
Starting the process would run counter to the democratic process because people first need to cast ballots in the special election, Dave Hanna said.
Further, Hanna predicted that school construction would be delayed anyway. Hanna, the owner of Sourdough Rigging and Construction, predicts the high school project will come in over budget because of the complexity of the proposed building.
He cited Bartlett Regional Hospital as an example of a local construction project that has been set back by two rounds of bids that came in millions over budget. Hanna said the school construction project is larger and even more complex.
Tara Sidor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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