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House-OK'd bonds would help pay for projects in Juneau

$445.1 million package awaits Senate's approval

Posted: Sunday, May 05, 2002

The House passed three bills on Friday that approve building and maintenance projects across the state totaling $445.1 million.

House Bills 524, 525 and 528 are part of a package of general obligation bonds -- the first bond measures seen in the Legislature in more than two decades. The bonds require voter approval in November.

Juneau projects specified in earlier versions of the bills were left intact, and a last-minute change in the House Finance Committee added $5.4 million for a building in Juneau that would double as a recreation center and armory.

The project is a joint venture between the University of Alaska Southeast and the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The 54,000-square-foot facility will be near the UAS Auke Lake campus.

It is designed to include a gymnasium, kitchen, locker room, classrooms, weight room, student lounge and electronic shooting range for UAS students. The National Guard will relocate its downtown armory to the facility. The building site also includes land for the addition of a vehicle maintenance shop.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat, said construction of the building would help Juneau keep a strong search-and-rescue presence in the area.

"Otherwise they're flying missions out of Anchorage," she said.

Kerttula said passing bonds now is a good idea for the state because of low interest rates.

The bond bills still need approval by the Senate and Gov. Tony Knowles, and with less than 10 days left in the session, projects easily can be taken out of a bill.

"We're going to be watching this like a hawk," Kerttula said.

Along with the recreation center and armory, the bonds package would give Juneau $2.7 million to help with renovations for Juneau-Douglas High School and $7.1 for maintenance of Juneau harbors.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries received only half of the $18 million needed to build a fisheries laboratory at Lena Point. And $27.9 million for a new high school in the Valley was left out of the proposals.

Other Juneau projects that didn't make the cut include $1.1 million for security at Juneau Airport, $2.3 million to conduct an environmental impact study for the Juneau Access project, $338,000 for senior housing at Fireweed Place, $350,000 for the Juneau Raptor Center, $150,000 for a recreation center and pool in the Valley, and $48,000 for the Juneau Wellness Court.

Construction of the projects could begin as early as the 2003 if the bonds are approved.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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