Parnell veto pen looms over construction projects

Posted: Wednesday, June 02, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sean Parnell has until June 9 to veto individual projects in the state Legislature's massive construction budget, meaning these are anxious times for supporters of big-ticket items in the Interior.

The $3 billion capital spending bill includes grants for hundreds of projects across the state. Two of the biggest are in the Fairbanks area - $40 million to help build a bridge across the Tanana River and room to borrow, pending voter approval, $109 million for a science center at the University of Alaska.

That money, however, represents only half of what's lined up for Fairbanks, North Pole and surrounding communities. Backers of projects large and small have been lobbying Parnell's office to maintain their grants.

The budget includes $876,000 to help build the Raven Landing community center. Though primarily intended for seniors, the center would be open for meetings and public performances.

Supporters, in lobbying Parnell, note the senior population in Fairbanks increased by an estimated 50 percent from 2000 to 2008.

"An expanded community center in Fairbanks is long overdue for our senior citizens, who have given so much of their lives to build and enhance our community," wrote Karl Greer, who directs the Carol H. Brice Family Center. "It's time to pay them back."

The Legislature added money for the project this spring. It was one of many add-ons to a budget Parnell had hoped to hold closer to $2 billion. The bill's gradual expansion drew skepticism from Parnell and Senate conservatives.

Some of the other Interior projects include:

• $500,000 to help the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center finish its 9,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

• $245,000 for a North Star Volunteer Fire Department engine.

• $300,000 to the nonprofit Family Centered Services of Alaska. It would be half the money needed to add a 3,200-square-foot waiting area to agency's North Fairbanks headquarters.

• $10,000 to remodel entrances and stairs at Joel's Place, an indoor skate park and youth center. The organization said the work is needed to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

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