Public works talks Centennial Hall improvements

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Voters approved $7 million in bonds and a hotel-motel tax hike to fund the project.

Architect Nathan Coffee said there is $11.5 million approved to spend at Centennial Hall.  He asked for input from the committee on how best to proceed.

Questions included how much to spend on Centennial Hall, what the scope should be, and when should they begin.

He explained the economics of the bond market is considered favorable right now. 

Chairperson Michele Bonnet-Hale asked and was assured the CBJ is not required to issue any bonds on the project.  She said if the CBJ were to sell bonds they could repay those bonds quickly through the hotel-motel tax revenues they collect.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't go out and bond I just want to see the best options for us," she told the Committee.

Assembly Member Wade Bryson said in his opinion the CBJ wouldn't have to borrow a nickel and still have about $6.8 million available to pay for Centennial Hall improvements.

Finance Director Jeff Rogers said current interest rates of 1.5% were available to the CBJ as they considered bonds for work at Juneau International Airport.  He called those very good rates.

Vice Chairperson Maria Gladziszewski said the discussion will be moved to the Committee of the Whole.

In other actions;

The Committee recommended approval of a $100,000 transfer of Marine Passenger Fees from the Marine Park to Taku Upland Improvements to the South Franklin Safety and Capacity Improvements.

The CBJ will construct improvements to the pedestrian corridor along and adjacent to South Franklin Street between Manila Square and Taku Fisheries.

The goal of the project is to improve safety for pedestrians and vehicles and increase the available sidewalk carrying capacity to accommodate high tourist volumes during the summer.

The improvements will include installation of pedestrian stanchions, upgraded lighting, removal of obstructions within the sidewalk where possible and improvements to Warner's Way to create pedestrian access to the Seawalk.

Public Works Director Mike Vigue said on busy days there are a lot of people on the sidewalks trying to get from one side of the street to another and they cross anywhere, regardless of crosswalk locations.  "We felt it would be good to put up stanchions to see if it keeps pedestrians off the roadways."

Staff checked the street every day during the summer this year and found tourists did not plug up traffic by jumping over the chains and mostly stayed on the sidewalks. 

Vigue said the trucking companies that transit the corridor made mostly positive comments about the changes.  Many companies asked that the stanchions be extended further down the street.

The stanchions will be removed during the winter months so they do not impact snow removal.

Bryson said the stanchions have been well received by the community.

Vigue said they intend to ask for the Alaska Department of Transportation to approve these extensions.

The committee also recommended approval of a budget transfer of $378,000 to help fund the pavement and water line replacement on Savikko Road.   Additional work includes replacement of the parking area pavement, drainage structures,  improvement of surface drainage from Savikko Sportsfields and replacement of the curb and gutter and sidewalks along the Savikko Sportsfields.  This work is needed due to the impacts of repairing drainage patterns and replacing storm drainage structures.

The committee also moved onto the full Assembly and recommended approval of an ordinance that corrects mistakes made on an earlier ordinance that addresses water and wastewater rates.

The committee endorsed a list of priorities for the Juneau Coordinated Transportation Coalition for grant funding by the Alaska Department of Transportation.  The list includes a taxi voucher program, a 4x4 capable lift-equipped van, and one ramp-equipped taxi.  The Juneau Coordinated Human Services Transportation Plan identifies available transportation services and to identify strategies to address gaps in transportation services provided to the elderly, the disabled, and the low-income that use public transportation to and from work.

Waste Management is doing final work on a recycling building at the landfill that should be ready for operation by the end of the year.  The CBJ has completed the design and site layout for another building to house the household hazardous waste facility at the landfill.  They plan to advertise for bids on the project early next year.

Mr. Vigue assured Assembly Member Carole Triem that they could end the recycling program if it got cost-prohibitive.

"The real goal of the program is to extend the life of the landfill.  We have language in our contract that tells us if Waste Management is placing materials we ship south into landfills," Vigue said.

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