FNSB Maintenance Wish List Moves To Next Phase

Jan 24, 2020

Citizens wanting to comment on the CIP, the Capital Improvement Program, crowd into FNSB Assembly Chambers on Jan. 16, 2020.
Credit Robyne / KUAC

About 60 projects are on a long list of maintenance and repair needs the Fairbanks North Star Borough wants to address in the next ten years. A new comprehensive Capital Improvement Program, or KIP, is still shaping up. Last night the Borough Assembly finished the third phase, in a meeting continued from last week.

It is still a little clunky. This is the first year the Fairbanks North Star Borough has used this process, and it is still unfamiliar. Mayor Bryce Ward wanted to address the millions of dollars in maintenance backlog at schools, borough buildings, parks and pools. The Assembly approved his program last fall, it has been moving forward in phases.

“The CIP process overall is new, it is teething, is the way I would put it.”

 “It’s a new process, we are going to have some bumps in the road.”

That Assemblymembers Aaron Lojewski and Mindy O’Neall.

Members of the public and the borough staff nominated projects in October before October 11. 99 of them are on the KIP FNSB.us/CIP website. The mayor’s office narrowed the list, which the Assembly debated for the two weeks. Assembly member Liz Lyke encouraged the body to put faith in the process.

“If we keep doing things the same, we’ll never do anything different. That’s where we’re at as a borough, again and again. What we can do will never match the need. My intention is to vote for everything in front of us.”

The plan is really a wish list, and will shape strategy and policy for the next ten years, but it will be open for the public to nominate more projects every two years. On Thursday, the Assembly was just to approve a list, which is now about 60 projects, and pass it back to the mayor’s office for ranking. Member Mindy O’Neall:

“Right now we are just inventorying what we have to work with.”

Repair money will come from the borough’s Facilities Maintenance Reserve fund, or FMR, with nearly 26 million dollars in it. But the maintenance backlog is millions more. FMR money will likely be consumed by the projects that get to the top of list, prompting some members to think about two lists.

FNSB Assembly Presiding Officer Matt Cooper looks over a list of 50 people who signed up to comment at a January 16, 2020 public hearing for the Capital Improvement Program.
Credit Robyne / KUAC

“We have had a lot of community input about deferred maintenance vs. new projects.”

“I think as we go through this CIP process, we need to keep a priority on maintenance.”

That was Leah Berman-Williams and Jimi Cash. The Assembly passed an amendment from Cash to divide the list into two – one for maintenance projects, and a separate one for new construction.

And that is nearly all that was changed in the 500-line resolution.

Some members drilled down on the dollar estimates for each project. But Borough Attorney Jill Dolan and Mayor Ward reminded the assembly they will vote again on the list after each project is scoped and prioritized.

Dolan “This is just the point where you are making the list, and all of that financial information comes later.”

“When it comes to funding sources to pay for these things that is the next phase. And really the Assembly gets two more bites of the apple. Once you get through this phase with the resolution, you have the overall CIP which you can amend, then you have the actual budget year.”

But member Aaron Lojewski didn’t want to wait. He moved to remove each project he defined as new construction … new buildings at parks, expansion of the Noel Wein Library and a replacement animal shelter. But other members like Berman-Williams, voted to the keep projects on the list.

“I don’t understand what is the benefit of removing information.”

One big project did come off the list: 12 million dollars for the school district’s College and Career Centers of Excellence for pathways to college and trade programs leading to high demand jobs.

And one small expansion went on the list: Frank Tomaszewski proposed an increase to the John Weaver skate park by 250,000.

After four hours of debate, the Assembly passed the Capital Improvement Program.

The next phase is analysis by the borough’s technical team, who will score each project and rank them.order them, based on each facility’s current condition and how much future use is required.