Assembly committee debates money for JACC

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Committee of the Whole also discussed funding renovations for Centennial Hall.

    The total costs of the Centennial Hall would be $17.1 million.

    The proposed list of renovations at Centennial Hall includes $1.17 million for upgrades to mechanical and electric systems, $1.7 million for major renovations like new flooring, acoustical panels and lighting in the ballroom, and $788,348 for new construction for a foyer expansion and entry.   Other parts of the plan include $519,450 for major renovations to the foyer and $672,675 for renovations to the north-west break out rooms.  Nine other projects being considered included $655,926 for renovations to the west corridor and business center, $645,248 for the conference room and offices, $842,947 for the large conference room, $389,477 for the office perimeter, $621,463 for the gift shop, and southeast entry, $1.21 million for upgrades to the exterior wall upgrades, $835,925 for work on the green room and storage, and $397,103 for major renovations to the kitchen, storage and coat room.  The total cost of this work is $14.6 million.

    The site and civil construction elements would cost just over $2.5 million.

    The project would include 5,400 square feet of major renovations, 5,000 square feet of covered walkways, and 8,900 square feet of new construction.

    Architect Paul Voelkers explained the list was based on priorities.  He noted it was a common-sense approach of doing the things desired or needed the most, first, followed by other projects of less importance. 

    "It is not an immature result for conceptual options.  Now you consider what priorities make sense.  It helps you understand the local costs," he added.

    Assembly member Rob Edwardson said if the CBJ did the project in phases there would be additional costs for the staging of contractors.

    Voelkers said the public wants that part of town to work better with a focus on a livable, walkable area.  He said the whole fabric breaks down when you enter the arts district.  He said the facility could use a 2,000 square feet meeting space.

    Assembly member Michele Bonnet-Hale said a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center would provide meeting rooms for the CBJ and they wouldn't have to be built in Centennial Hall.

    Liz Perry of Travel Juneau said they plan to keep marketing Centennial Hall for meetings, conventions and other uses during construction.  She said meeting space in the new JACC would help. 

    Assembly member Loren Jones suggested an increase in the bed tax to 12-percent to pay for this.  Currently, the bed tax is seven percent.  Motels, hotels and bed and breakfast would no longer charge sales tax.   Since the sales tax is five percent, the new bed tax would be the same identical tax for these businesses.   It would raise about $1.2 million for the CBJ each year.  Jones said the arts industry is an economic driver for the community.

    "The tax burden on these businesses would be exactly the same," he added.

    This proposal would require approval from the voters.

    Bonnet-Hale said this proposal was coming out of left field.  "I appreciate the creativity but I don't under the mechanics of it.  If we are losing a $1 million a year in sales tax revenue how will that be made up?"

    The voters approved portions of the sales tax to be used at Centennial Hall.  Municipal Robert Palmer said voters would have to approve the increase in the bed tax.  He noted the CBJ is not required to spend the money on Centennial Hall and the ballot question last year was more of a moral promise than a legal obligation.

    "You have the authority to use the sales and bed tax for whatever public use is needed," he added.

    Right now the bed tax is split between Travel Juneau and Centennial Hall.  Four out of every seven cents collected goes to Travel Juneau and three cents goes to Centennial Hall.

    The JACC supporters requested $7.5 million from the CBJ.  This amount represents a 25-30% public contribution toward the estimated cost of $26.4 million.

    Bonnet-Hale said $7.5 million would be a reach.  $4.5 million has been approved for Centennial Hall already.  She proposed sending that money to the new JACC project and make the grant subject to voter approval.  She also proposed a general obligation bond for $7 million for Centennial Hall upgrades that includes a covered canopy.

    "I understand that is their (JACC) need.  I also understand the fiscal realities we face.  It is an important project for Juneau.  We can't say we can't do anything.  We have to take care of the economy and arts are an important part of our economy.  I don't think we should wait," she added.

    Mayor Beth Weldon said the CBJ has already provided $7 million in cash and in-kind services to the JACC project.  She listed $4.5 million from this proposal, $1 million they already donated, the land value that includes an annual lease of $1 per year, demolition of the old public safety building for parking, and potentially demolition of the current JACC.

    The Assembly agreed to continue discussions on possible ballot measures this year.  They will meet in a Special Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, July 15th at 5:30 pm

     

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