Borough maintenance on the Sternwheeler Nenana, Mary Siah Recreation Center and schools across the Fairbanks North Star Borough is shaping a long-term spending plan that will come before the borough assembly this week. An estimated $200-$300 million worth of repairs are backlogged among borough and school district properties. A new process, called the Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, has closed-out a first phase where citizens and borough staff nominated projects for the plan. The next phase belongs to the Assembly.
During the CIP nomination period last fall, 94 projects were nominated by the public, borough staff, and the school district. A resolution before the borough assembly on Thursday evening has been trimmed to 66 projects.
Borough Mayor Bryce Ward’s staff has put all the projects and their descriptions on a special Fairbanks North Star Borough website: FNSB.US/CIP.
Assemblymember Aaron Lojewski says he is approaching the whole list skeptically.
“ I don’t want to see the government grow. I don’t want to see the FMR funding for the CIP to enlarge our government. So I only want to see projects funded that will maintain existing buildings, possibly replace worn-out buildings, but nothing new.”
Member Marna Sanford wants to see identified maintenance problems like school roofs move to the top of the list, and major construction like a new multi-million-dollar Aquatic Center or library remodel put on hold until state funding could be added.
“Those projects that were proposed deserve some face time. Do I think they need to be passed this year? Probably not. I think until we figure out what is going on in Juneau, we’re going to have a different feel for big capital projects.”
One of those larger projects is the SS Nenana, the wooden river boat that has been on display at Pioneer Park since it opened as the A-67 Centennial exhibition 52 years ago. Assembly member Jimi Cash says there are three proposals dealing with the Nenana, but none of them are to actually restore the beloved landmark.
“There’s one to remove the diorama and put it in storage, one to put a cover over the boat, and one to cut the sternwheel off to put on display and demolish the rest of the boat. That’s not going to happen, because if it did the community would lose their minds.”
Cash and Assembly member Frank Tomaszewski have submitted a completely separate resolution recommending restoration of the riverboat be turned over to the volunteer group “Friends of the SS Nenana,” which is slowly raising money through donations.
Assemblymember Leah Berman-Williams wrote in an email message that she is working to amend the CIP resolution to include an SS Nenana restoration project.
The next phase in the plan is analysis by the borough’s technical team, who will score each project based on each facility’s current condition and how much future use is required. Safety and required functions like schools will be factors.
They will prioritize the list into projects that should be addressed right away – in the first four years. Other projects will be pushed to a later timeline. After scoring, the borough assembly will get another crack at approving the final plan later this year.