Ice rink funds fall far short

Project plan changes one day after voters approved funding

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2000

Juneau voters might think the money they OK'd for an ice rink Tuesday is enough to build a "bare-bones" facility because that's how the proposition was touted by its promoters.

It isn't enough, not by a long shot, according to city Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer.

Kiefer said Wednesday another $2 million will be needed for even the most basic facility.

The ice rink can't be built for the $1.4 million available, including $1.1 million from sales tax revenues and $300,000 from other sources, she said.

"We just can't do that, it's not feasible. Just to do the metal building would probably be more. ... The facility we're going to do is going to be as bare-bones as possible," she said.

Initial estimates given to the Juneau Assembly in July were $1.4 million for a "bare-bones" facility that included a 26,000-square-foot building on a concrete slab, ice-making equipment and a toilet, according to Rich Poor, president of the Douglas Fourth-of-July Committee. The group has been spearheading interest in the rink since 1993.

"We determined we had a $300,000 errror in our estimate at the time, which we recognized," bringing the total up to $1.7 million, Poor said. "And initially we didn't intend to go to the voters with it. It was done because (Bartlett Regional Hospital and the school district) were going to tie up our last resort (funds from the 1 percent sales tax) for five years."

In an interview Wednesday, Poor talked about funds from the sales tax paying for the "first phase" of the bare-bones facility.

And there might or might not be ice.

"It would be the barest of bones," he said today. "It would be the building, the concrete floor and ice coils, maybe some refrigerating equipment."

The real problem with the cost is that the city is going to build the project, Poor said. "We'd been assuming the Fourth of July Committee would build it, and as a nonprofit we could save the project a lot of money. But with a city contract there's a lot of administrative cost."

Juneau attorney Joe Geldhof a masters hockey player and rink supporter thought enthusiasm might have got the better of the boosters. "Their zeal to build a bare-bones facility probably caused them to underestimate the cost," he said. "But what's important here is they thought they could build it, and where the bullet hits the bone in public construction is in city overhead: The overhead rate in Juneau is out of control."

"The Douglas committee made an honest effort on this," Geldhof said. "But they were blind-sided by the city."

Geldhof estimated project overhead for the city at 30-40 percent.

"That would not be a shocking figure (to me)," said City Attorney John Corso.

But costs of city administration notwithstanding, the city charter sets the rules for competitive bids, he said. Generally, contracts for public improvements have to be by competitive bid and are awarded to the lowest among them.

"An exception would be if a nonprofit that provided services, and then there would have to be a written agreement between the city and the nonprofit," Corso said.

Poor said he would be meeting with city offficials next week to iron things out and to discuss acquiring federal, state and private grants for the project, he said.

Reached at her office this morning, Kiefer said rink cost estimates "were very, very preliminary."

Asked if she thought nonprofits could contribute enough to the project to get Juneau residents ice-skating for $1.7 million, Kiefer said, "potentially they could."

Geldhof concurred: "If you gave $1.7 million to a lean, mean nonprofit and the city stayed the hell out of the way, people would be skating."

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