A change-up in the process for fixing broken borough buildings or constructing new facilities passed the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly last night. The new plan requires a lot more public input. The plan will open up for public nomination of projects on Monday.
Fairbanks Borough Mayor Bryce Ward has doubled down on the public comment opportunities in the new ordinance. The new Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP is being rolled out with a colorful new website and two public workshops.
“We wanted to really make sure …. All the way through construction.”
It is estimated that between 200 and 300 million dollars’ worth of repairs are waiting in borough and school buildings. Formerly, the administration and Assembly would try to prioritize where to start.
“Our old plan was almost a joke.” Assembly member Aaron Lojewski said the old process for prioritizing didn’t carefully examine what is the most efficient way of allocating tax dollars.
“It makes sense that we should have a more robust plan than what we’ve had in the past to effiently allocate and how we are going to spend it.”
Maintenance and construction are not very sexy issues, but they’ve been a problem for the borough since voters enacted a tax cap in 1987… and they’ve become a repeated theme for the borough recently. Mary Siah Recreation Center became notorious for its maintenance problems, and was nearly closed for safety reasons. Then voters rejected bond issues last October for a new animal shelter, roofs at two schools and a new ice plant for the Carlson Center. To make a dent in some of the maintenance backlog, the Assembly passed an ordinance in January requiring the mayor to put a minimum (.7) percentage of the budget into the Facilities Maintenance Reserve, even if the budget is flat, with no growth.
Ward says the new Capital Improvement Plan requires individuals to nominate projects. Groups can weigh in, however, with letters of support and public comments.
“If you have a project that you’re passionate about, or that you have an idea on, this is your opportunity as an individual member of our community to bring that forward.”
Nominations can be made on the new website for the Fairbanks North Star Borough Capital Improvement Plan – the address – FNSB.US/CIP. Project Nominations will be accepted until October 11.
The projects will be ranked by the administration, then sent to the Assembly for another round of public comment before approval. Then the Assembly’s list will be scored with criteria like the current condition of a facility, and what it’s future use might be. Then projects are budgeted and broken into phases. At that point there is another level of public comment.
The mayor’s plan will provide a ten-year forecast for spending on maintenance and bonding for new construction.
“Years one through four become the Capital Work Plan, so those are the projects we are most likely going to be spending money on. And years five through 10 are projects that we are not putting money on at this point, but we are signaling to the community that these are projects that we have put value on, as far as the planning process is concerned.”
There are two Community Workshops to explain the new plan. One on Monday, August 19, at the Noel Wien Library, and another on September 24, at the North Pole Library.