Cuts take half a million from Juneau

Murkowski axes funding marked for 'essential building repairs'

Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2003

Maintenance and repairs to city buildings will be reduced as a result of Gov. Frank Murkowski's budget cuts, which eliminated more than $500,000 that had been earmarked for Juneau.

Murkowski cut $138 million from the budget, including $22 million in municipal revenue sharing and Safe Communities, a program that provides money for emergency departments, and $15 million in community matching grants for public-works projects. The municipal funding cuts were announced early last week and details were included in budget documents released when all the vetoes were announced Thursday.

Included in the cuts is $325,500 earmarked for city maintenance projects deferred in the past for lack of funds. Murkowski also cut $149,500 that would have gone to what are known as "essential building repairs" - preventive maintenance to avoid more serious problems in the future. Also slashed was $35,000 for various asbestos removal projects and $20,000 for a new building for the Juneau Family Birth Center.

"It's definitely a big deal," said City Manager Rod Swope. "These are essential and then even the deferred items are extremely important, but because of money and other reasons we keep putting them off. It means things that are critical that need to be taken care of, they aren't going to get taken care of."

Murkowski has said municipalities have to do their part to help tighten the state's belt.

The largest single cut is $175,000 in state funding for a conversion of Centennial Hall's electrical heating system to something more efficient.

"We wanted to do an analysis to how we could change it to make it more effective. We wanted to look at some other options for heating in Centennial Hall. The money would allow a survey and some initial work," said Kim Kiefer, the city's parks and recreation director.

The Centennial Hall project had been allotted $250,000, with the remaining funds coming from a 30 percent city match grant.

Kaye Kanne, executive director of the five-year-old Juneau Family Birth Center, said she was disappointed with the governor's cuts.

"It was a token amount, but it really helps funders to see that the state has given us money. It was more like feed money," she said.

The nonprofit center, which Kanne said delivers about 20 percent of babies born in Juneau, leases office space near Bartlett Regional Hospital, but wants to buy land and build an office in the same area. The center provides midwife services, a birth center and home birth assistance, pregnancy classes and parenting support, including specialized support for teen parents.

Kanne said budget figures are very rough right now, but she said the total cost of the center probably would exceed $1 million.

Also victim to Murkowski's veto was $42,000 for miscellaneous repairs to the Zach Gordon Youth Center downtown and $28,000 for repairs to covered play areas at school playgrounds throughout the city. Murkowski cut those funds, $70,000 toward floor replacement in the lobby of the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool and $14,000 for interior restoration to the Auke Bay Glacier Fire Station.

Swope said the cuts may result in changes to city appropriations. The Public Works Committee will look at the city's capital projects and perhaps reprioritize them, he said.

Kiefer said the cuts will cost the city money in the long run.

"If we can't take care of it now, it's going to really in the long run cost us more. You end up with more problems that you have to fix," she said.

Masha Herbst can be reached at masha.herbst@juneauempire.com.



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