Juneau renovation projects rank high on state wish-list

Harborview Elementary's $13.5 million job ranks highest at No. 7

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dave Newton has watched Auke Bay Elementary School change during his 13 years as principal.

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"You walk down my hallway upstairs and you can just see the floor slanting to the water (Auke Bay)," he said. "And our doors are jamming."

The school, which is slowly transforming due to geologic conditions at its location, is one of the capital improvement projects from Juneau on the Department of Education and Early Development's priority list for school maintenance across the state for fiscal year 2007. Juneau has a total of nine projects on the list. The Juneau School District does not have any projects on the department's "top-100" priority list of school construction, the new high school already having been funded. Though commonly called the top-100, the list currently contains 96 items.

The department has four Juneau-area elementary school renovations in the top 11 projects on its school maintenance priority list. Harborview Elementary is the highest-ranked at No. 7, with a nearly $13.5 million project. Gastineau Elementary School is at No. 8 with a $9 million renovation project. A Glacier Valley Elementary renovation project of $4 million is at No. 10. And Auke Bay Elementary is ranked at No. 11 with a nearly $12.2 million project. School playground upgrades for two Ketchikan elementary schools totaling $352,202 combine for the No. 1 maintenance project on the list.

"We just had a lot of high needs across the district," Juneau School District Facilities Planner Deb Morse said.

Morse said it is unusual for Juneau to get so many projects ranked so highly on the priority list. She said it is likely because the district did condition surveys of its facilities that they used in reports submitted to the Department of Education and Early Development for project consideration.

The Legislature will decide how much money will go toward funding school maintenance. If any of the Juneau projects are approved through legislative funding, the school district will have the option of receiving 70 percent reimbursement if the projects go through as planned. That means voters would likely be asked to vote on bonds to cover the remaining 30 percent of the projects.

House Finance Committee Co-Chairman Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said funding for the renovations might not be as high a priority this year because the Legislature cleared the backlog of school maintenance projects last year in an unprecedented move.

"It's way too early to even speculate what that amount might be," he said.

There are other maintenance projects around the state that also need to be addressed, including roads and harbor projects, he said.

"Even if they approve that entire list ... we're not going to do it all at once," Morse said.

The projects take time to get off the ground in terms of planning and bidding, among other considerations, Morse said. She said she believes the voters understand the need.

"There's a lot of wear and tear on schools that have as many children as we do day in and day out, and extensive public use," Newton said.

The list of renovations Harborview is looking at includes ventilation and fire alarm system upgrades, a central commons, a larger kitchen, converting the basement back into the library, and turning the vacant rifle range into usable space. The 65,519-square-foot building was constructed in 1952.

The list of renovations at Gastineau includes a new roof, plumbing upgrades, a 5,250-square-foot commons, a larger kitchen and Americans with Disabilities Act code upgrades. The 45,433-square-foot building was constructed in 1953.

The list at Glacier Valley includes a larger kitchen, an 8,000-square foot commons area, small group learning spaces and ADA upgrades. Juneau voters approved $5.99 million in bond debt in the Oct. 4, 2005 city election for a renovation project at the school, previously approved by the state. Morse said the school district needs more funds to adequately move forward with the project. The 52-500-square-foot school was built in 1966.

Auke Bay is considering roof work, mechanical and electrical system upgrades, a 12,000-square-foot commons, a larger kitchen, and larger classrooms. The 48,970-square-foot school was built in 1968.

"It's a very long list of improvements that need to be done for this school," Newman said.

The school has to grind down and modify doors at the school because of the metamorphosis that occurs with the changing geology underneath the school, he said. At times "they stick so badly that we can't get them open."

Newman said working on the maintenance sooner rather than later would likely save taxpayers money in the future.

"If not (maintained) they will deteriorate over time and the cost will just get bigger," he said.

Other Juneau projects that made the top-100 maintenance list are a $9.3 million Marie Drake renovation at No. 32; $8.3 million for districtwide playgrounds and site improvements at No. 39; a $2.3 million Riverbend Elementary School roof repair and site improvements at No. 45; a $2.9 million of maintenance for district facilities at No. 51; and a $2.9 million renovation of Mendenhall River Elementary School at No. 52.

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