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Parks, Pools, Schools on Capital Improvements List


A list of 47 building and maintenance projects to be paid for over the next ten years is on a special Finance Committee agenda tonight for the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. The list is a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan and includes parks, schools, ice rinks and pools. Tonight’s review will prepare the list for a public hearing later this month. 

There will be no public testimony tonight; the meeting is meant for the Assembly to hear from the administrative team who evaluated the projects. Chief of Staff Jim Williams says the seven-person technical review team gave each project a numerical score after looking at safety, how much outside money might be available from other sources like grants, how much public support there was for each project, the ongoing maintenance costs and about six other factors.

“We scored 64 projects and broke it up over five days. We got in the conference room and put up slides and sticky notes and it was kind of like a war room, and got it done and got a product to the mayor so he can take the next steps.”

After Mayor Bryce Ward reviewed the list, the team created a booklet of easy-to-read spreadsheets, and a calendar of projects going out to 2030. The whole thing is on the CIP website, and now in the hands of the Assembly. The plan is designed to prioritize borough maintenance needs, and eliminate reacting to repair crises – those emergencies that end up costing more.

At the top of the list is renovating the John Weaver Memorial Skatepark. Ward told reporters last week it scored high because a citizen group has already worked up most of the funding and it would be easy to complete the project – maybe even this summer.

“You’ll notice some projects that were larger in dollar amount are a little bit later in the plan. Some of the smaller ones got scooted up because we had flexibility earlier in the plan. And we wanted a win. So, something like the skatepark would be a great project for us to get completed.”

At tonight’s Finance Committee meeting, the presentation will feature the first four years of the plan, where construction bidding and financing are realistic estimates. The farther out on the plan, the more variables with costs.

All years are fiscally constrained. The main pot of money that will pay for these capital improvements is the FMR, the Facilities Maintenance Reserve. That’s gotten a lot of attention recently from citizens worried about the closure of Mary Siah Recreation Center, the sternwheeler S.S. Nenana and the emergency closure of the Centennial Civic Center in Pioneer Park. Last year the Assembly passed an ordinance requiring that 9% of each year’s budget proposal be earmarked for maintenance.

“The Assembly has said, ‘Mayor, you’re going to put 9% of your operating revenues into the FMR as part of your proposed budget.’ So that number, this year, looks like $11 million. Looking to the future, we chose to go with $11 million to be a conservative number for planning purposes over time.”

The plan works off that $11 million annual baseline, which can fund four or five projects each year. Really big projects, like a $17 million animal shelter, are spread over three or more years.

“The plan does not propose bonding at this time. The Assembly could change that. Future years could change that. But we want to show the community what we’re able to do with the resources that we have available.”

Although there are no public comments at tonight’s meeting, Ward stressed the whole plan is designed around citizen input.

“This is available on our website. I encourage folks to take a look at it. If you have comments, provide them to the Assembly. The Assembly can amend it again on the 26th of March.”

March 26 is the scheduled date of the public hearing.