City to help SEARHC get better financing for new health clinic

Other nonprofits taking budget requests before finance panel

Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2001

The Juneau Assembly's Finance Committee on Wednesday unanimously agreed to work with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium to provide bond assistance for a new Juneau clinic.

SEARHC is asking the city to extend $6.7 million in pass-through revenue bonds to help build a $9.5 million clinic, SEARHC President Ken Brewer said.

The city wouldn't be financially obligated to repay the debt and the bonds would not affect the city's credit, City Finance Director Craig Duncan said. The funding would allow SEARHC, a nonprofit group providing health services primarily to Alaska Natives, to take advantage of tax-exempt bonds and a lower interest rate, he said. An ordinance appropriating the funds would come back to the Assembly for consideration.

The proposed 32,000-square-foot clinic would be built on 2.5 acres of SEARHC land near Bartlett Regional Hospital, Brewer said. SEARHC used a similar financing arrangement with the city when it built its Juneau clinic in the late 1980s, he said.

SEARHC's 12,000-square-foot clinic was built for 20,000 patient visits a year, and the organization expects 33,475 patient visits this year. Lack of space is limiting the services SEARHC provides, Brewer said.

"We cannot see any more patient visits," he said. "We can't get more people in the door."

The Finance Committee also listened to budget requests from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Perseverance Theatre, the Alaska Conservatory Theatre, the Juneau Economic Development Council and the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc.

The Assembly is keeping a running list of new funding requests and will consider the package as a whole May 23, Finance Committee Chairwoman Cathy Muoz said.

Assembly members agreed to put $25,000 for a new arts center feasibility study on the list, along with $108,000 for the Juneau Economic Development Council and $9,000 for the Perseverance and Alaska Conservatory Theatres. The Assembly also agreed to consider a separate $150,000 capital project and endowment request from Perseverance.

The city is projecting a $2.3 million budget surplus in fiscal year 2002, although Assembly member Dale Anderson cautioned against using the word surplus.

"Cutting taxes would be a wonderful thing to the community and would have widespread benefit," he said, suggesting the Assembly lower the property tax mill rate. "This is not our money. It belongs to the citizens of the borough."

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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