No guarantee bonds would cover costs

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I am disappointed in the Juneau Empire's recent, post-bond election coverage of Thunder Mountain High School.

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First, I am involved as an architect on the project, potentially biasing my comments, but also lending an understanding of the issues that have been misrepresented.

The Empire's choice of words and faulty homework has inflamed what is likely to be a nonissue. The following factual issues need to be restated: The Juneau School District cannot bid work before the money is in hand to do so. Therefore, the district's inability to absolutely guarantee an outcome before the election was impossible. To allege that this inability represents a lack of integrity is either a silly statement, or knowingly inflammatory.

What the district and city of Juneau have done is make a best-care estimate of what they believe the costs for the work, both auditorium and track and field, will be. It would not be proper stewardship of the public's money to ask for substantially more than the estimates (ensuring nothing could go wrong) because that would needlessly commit extra funds and also be a source of virulent public criticism. Administrators have to walk a delicate line between realism and conservatism.

So Superintendent Peggy Cowan is exactly right in noting that nothing can be guaranteed, but that in all likelihood, the projects will proceed and be executed exactly as the public was promised. It is unfortunate that dedicated administrators and elected officials have been unfairly impugned by the Empire when they are doing their job correctly.

Paul Voelckers


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