Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Assembly Finance Committee recommended a ballot measure to raise $9 million in bonds.
An earlier proposal planned to raise $12 million in bonds. The new proposal would reduce the bonds to $9 million.
Voters authorized last year an extension of a one cent sales tax to pay for $4.5 million for improvements to Centennial Hall. This proposal would change the revenue used for the Centennial Hall improvements to be debt service instead of from sales tax revenues.
Renovations to Centennial Hall include upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and expansion of the lobby, construction and equipping the new arts and culture center and construction of an enclosed and heated corridor between Centennial Hall and the new JACC.
The estimated cost of the new Juneau Arts and Culture Center is $32 million. The plan has been to raise most of the funding from the private sector.
CBJ Finance Committee Chairman Jesse Kiehl said both proposals are still being considered.
The renovations at Centennial Hall include $1.5 million for heating, ventilation and air condition controls, $225,000 for interior and exterior lighting, $150,000 for new tables and chairs, $421,000 for electrical upgrades, $10,000 for an interpretation display and recognition of the Tlingit people in the courtyard, $270,000 in various painting, and $375,000 to renovate the kitchen. A tent for the courtyard area would cost $468,000.
To take advantage of the bonds, the new JACC would have to be owned by the CBJ. City Manager Rorie Watt said that was a legal requirement for the bonds. He proposed that $2 million from the CBJ would go to the JACC project in the form of a grant instead. $7 million would go toward Centennial Hall. The total bond would be $9 million. Lobby work, a covered hallway and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work would be included. Parking would also be improved and the JACC would remain in private ownership.
The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council recently took over management responsibilities for both facilities.
Mary Becker said Travel Juneau is not completely behind this project. She urged the Assembly to get more information from them directly. She serves as the Assembly liaison for Travel Juneau.
Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski said she was not a big fan of owning the new JACC. "I would like to hear from the groups whether they support or don't support this project. I don't want to miss the possibility of the ballot. This is not enough information to change course for me."
Finance Director Bob Bartholomew said a special meeting to introduce the ordinance could be held in early August. He said there would be enough time to get it on this year's ballot. A public hearing had been scheduled for the Assembly meeting on August 13. The earlier proposal for $12 million in bonds will still be considered at this meeting.
Assembly member Norton Gregory said Juneau has some serious needs and how the CBJ is going to pay for them have not been discussed. "The Airport remodel and upgrades is a need. We know what the airport means to this community. Phase two of Housing First is knocking at our doors and we must seriously consider it. The 40 homeless people it would help currently cost the hospital and emergency services $1.8 million every six months. We have pending litigation with the cruise lines, if it doesn't go in our favor is something that weighs on my mind. We have infrastructure needs and an under staffed fire department. There is room to improve snow removal."
Gregory said the additional funding for the JACC does not make sense at this time. "Juneau is in a recession. We have had a decline in jobs since 2012. This has decreased sales taxes, decreased the number of students going to schools and meant less funding for education, I don't see where we spend time on this matter until we hammer out answers to these other issues."
Gregory described it as a want and not a need for the community. "Until we answer how to fund this list, we shouldn't discuss this further and put this on the back burner and deal with other budget issues."
Mayor Ken Koelsch said he'd like to meet with Travel Juneau and the JACC and hear their opinions. He said the JACC was going to be a privately funded facility. "Now its proposed to be a CBJ facility. Now were moving back to a private facility. We are not dealing with all the players. We need that for a rational discussion."
Assembly member Loren Jones said he wished Travel Juneau was more open and honest in their debate, "They were not very verbal on the tax issue to repair Centennial Hall. They openly opposed raising the bed tax last year. They have been silent on this whole issue. The only words we have from them we got from the JACC partnership. Either they were mistaken or Travel Juneau changed their mind. I have consistently argued that Travel Juneau has failed to show where the increase in bed taxes have increased the number of independent travelers coming here. It seems to me an arts complex, with all year long activity, would be a great way to bring people here in the winter time. We can't just claim the 1.3 million in cruise visitors and claim success when Travel Juneau is not doing anything for that."
Jones said he wants the public to be able to understand the issue and have their say. He said he wouldn't mind two proposals being considered for the ballot.
The motion passed 6-2 with one absent. Assembly member Gregory and Chairman Kiehl were opposed. Assembly member Rob Edwardson was absent.
The committee asked for more information on a proposal to raise the hotel tax from seven to nine percent. One possibility is raising $440,000 to use for Centennial Hall or other projects.
The measure will appear on the October 2nd ballot,