Assembly committee approves $42 million capital project list

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee on Monday approved $42 million in capital improvement projects to be carried out.

The list includes developing a new gravel pit, a new backup generator for city hall, new operating room equipment for Bartlett Regional Hospital and transferring $1.5 million in cruise ship taxes to the budget of the Downtown Parking Garage and Transit Center to be built on Telephone Hill.

The only project on the list of more than 60 that drew ire from any member of the Assembly was the garage, City Manager Rod Swope said. The committee approved using $1.5 million of the cruise ship passenger fees to help finance the garage. Only Assembly member Bob Doll opposed the funding move.

Doll spoke against the parking garage provision and said his dissent was not driven by the proposed use of cruise ship taxes, but rather the project itself. Only one project on the list received substantial negative public comment, the parking garage, Doll said.

Doll said the site plan was "less than optimal," the building will be ugly and its construction at the chosen site will impede construction of a new Capitol. Since Sept. 11, government Capitols and office buildings have avoided close proximity to parking garages, Doll said. Garages are a security risk, he said.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford said Doll's issues had been "vetted over and over." Nothing has to be rethought, he said. The garage was included in a sales tax package put to voters who then approved it last fall.

Doll said voters approved the garage but not the location and thinks the city should reconsider its placement.

Sanford said it's a done issue.

Calling it an energy issue, Doll said future infrastructure supporting an automobile economy should be avoided. The city should rethink overall transportation issues and appropriate money thereafter.

"We shouldn't build a parking garage because we can," he said.

If finalized, the capital improvement projects will be part of a six-year funding cycle starting in fiscal year 2009, which begins in July.

Some of the project funding comes from the state through grants and matching funds, Swope said. The Assembly will consider further action on the plan June 2.

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