Citizens Share Building Priorities

Jan 9, 2020

Credit FNSB

Overhauling the way maintenance and repairs are done on taxpayer- funded buildings has been a goal of Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward. An estimated $200-$300 million worth of repairs are backlogged among borough and school district properties. A new procedure to come up with a 10-year capital improvement plan, or CIP, requires a lot more public input.


The borough’s fix-it list is 93 projects long. The new process approved last August has had a lot of public interest. 29 of these projects were nominated by citizens.

The others came from borough staff or the school district. The nomination window closed in October, and was the first phase of citizen input in this new process. To encourage more, the borough administration has kept up a special website for the Capital Improvement process at fnsb.us/cip.

There, Mayor Bryce Ward talks about several projects on a video showing maintenance problems like cracked ceilings, peeling paint and blocked exit doors. Then he reminds citizens to come to the public hearing January 16th.

“And this is a perfect opportunity to share with us on these scopes; did we get them right? Or are there some things you’d like to see changed?”

The scopes and very rough estimates of costs of each project are listed on the CIP website. From $2,000,000 to restore the SS Nenana, to school renovations costing between four and 11 million dollars, to a 107,000,000 Aquatic Center, that could be many years away.

Some citizens have already weighed in with comment. Retired civil engineer Rufus B. Bunch, has served on the Polaris Working Group for more than a decade and would like to see a Convention and Arts Center replace the decrepit Polaris Hotel in downtown Fairbanks.

“There’s a cost, definitely. But the groups that support new construction have looked at the ways it will benefit the city and the community and the borough, and the revenue that comes in.”

A new animal shelter proposal has garnered a lot of citizen comment. At $17,000,000, something to replace the unsafe facility built in 1974 has been on the borough’s capital projects list for years. A 2017 engineering report showed many problems. A bond issue in 2018 was rejected by borough voters. Volunteer Ronnie Rosenberg thinks it may already be too late to build a new facility before the current one might be closed for safety reasons.

“Even if they pass it tomorrow, it’s gonna take awhile. We don’t have the luxury of closing it down for a couple of years.”

The administration is taking comment on all the nominated projects by email, and at the January 16 public hearing.

After the Assembly approves the projects, the administration’s technical team will rank them to come up with a 10-year plan to chip away at the maintenance backlog and build new facilities.