My Turn: Juneau should reconsider buying Scottish Rite Temple

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Juneau Empire's Sunday Aug. 27 edition had a very interesting My Turn column by Steve Wolf. In it he focused on all the dream projects this city has and the high taxes imposed on a handful of those property owners expected to carry the burden.

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In the last two years, property assessments have risen by an astronomical amount, causing all property owners to wonder how much higher assessments will go, and when, or if this continual rise in property taxes will ever end.

It is my understanding the city is considering the purchase of the Scottish Rite Temple, and in turn handing over this property to the State of Alaska. I can certainly sympathize and relate to the reasons this idea is being considered by the city, inasmuch as the Capitol move issue continues to loom over Juneau much like the sword of Damocles. Nevertheless, I'm not sure the purchase of this building and subsequent gifting it to the state will cause the Capitol movers to cease and desist.

I don't know what the city will have to pay for this building, but it is my understanding that if they go ahead with this transaction, they will use sales-tax revenue for this purchase. The city will in turn sell the building to the state for $1. I fail to understand how the city can justify using sales-tax revenue for the purchase of building. Not too long ago, senior citizens were being threatened with the loss of this valuable exemption. Also, it is my understanding there are considerable sales tax dollars that are still delinquent. If the city is concerned about the lack of revenue, how can they justify purchasing this building for whatever amount they will have to pay for it and then selling it to the state for $1. To my mind, this is not good business practice.

Further, there are other issues worthy of consideration regarding this proposed transaction and the effect it will have on several aspects of this community.

The Scottish Rite Temple is an imposing structure that has great historical and traditional significance. Considering there are few historical structures remaining in Juneau - we recently lost a very valuable asset when the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church tragically burned - it would be sad to lose yet another one.

Further, this building serves as the home of Juneau Dance Unlimited. This group not only conducts classes in this building, it performs there and provides an educational summer program for young people. They also provide space to other art groups or artists in the area. The type of facility they require is not easily available in Juneau, and I fear if they are displaced they will disappear much like Juneau-Douglas Little Theater did when they were no longer able to use the Capital Theater Building.

To sum up, in light of the cost overruns on two major projects, namely the hospital and the new high school, I would hope the city would carefully reconsider any further expenditures of funds. I also hope that the Scottish Rite Temple will be maintained in its current state, as a piece of Juneau history and also to serve a segment of the Juneau art community.

• Sandra L. DeLong is a Juneau resident.

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