Funding for noise study faces some assembly flak

Members concerned $100k doesn't include heliport review

Posted: Tuesday, April 04, 2000

The city manager asked the Juneau Assembly Monday night for money to pay for a noise and heliport feasibility study this summer. He was greeted with a flurry of questions from assembly members about what the money was actually for and where it would come from.

The measure appropriates $100,000 from the city general fund's unappropriated fund balance - money not specifically earmarked - ``for an acoustic study to establish baseline noise levels in neighborhoods affected by flightseeing noise,'' according to the draft document.

The project would explain noise levels in terms of impacts on health and well-being and would predict expected future noise levels if nothing is done to make things quieter.

``The work is appropriately funded by the cruise ship passenger fee, but until all expenditures for the fee are established, the general fund is listed as the source,'' Palmer said.

But the city manager ran into a stiff headwind when he said the appropriation request would only cover the noise study, and that the funding for the heliport feasibility portion of the study would be determined at a later date.

``I don't see the validity of linking (noise and heliport studies) together,'' assembly member Dwight Perkins said. Perkins is also chairman of the Finance Committee.

``Plus, we're not seeing the true cost,'' he said.

``Are we really going to appropriate revenue from a source we don't even know about yet - and which could be subject to litigation?'' he added, referring to the cruise ship passenger fee passed last fall.

Palmer's amendment of the draft ordinance title to include an increased scope of work - the heliport study - with no increase in the appropriation irked Perkins.

``Unless there's a corrected fiscal note when the ordinance comes up, I won't support it,'' Perkins said. ``We're not going to do this with a wink and a nod.''

Doubts on the assembly about the advisability of establishing new heliports in Juneau stem from the fact that policy on the question hasn't been addressed, on the committee or in the full assembly, member Jim Powell said. Powell also sits on the assembly's Planning and Policy Committee, which initially asked city staff to put forth the appropriations measure.

The committee has a request for proposal out for the noise and heliport study. ``The heliport issue is not new to members of the Planning and Policy Committee,'' Powell said. ``But maybe we should have communicated better with the other assembly members.''

Powell said the Planning and Policy Committee ideas about mitigating helicopter noise revolved around whether they all would be required to operate out of the Juneau Airport; what kind of land classification would be necessary for establishing new heliports; and whether new heliports can be established under existing ordinance and regulations.

``We have been dealing with every single aspect of noise mitigation,'' said Planning and Policy Committee Chairman Tom Garrett. ``And at the core of all consideration of heliports is the question: Would heliports reduce noise for Juneau residents?''

The assembly accepted the amended ordinance for introduction on a 5-4 vote. A full discussion and vote will take place at a future assembly meeting.

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