Mayor Kassel asks public to decide what borough can afford
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The Fairbanks North Star Borough is at a financial crossroads, and the mayor is hosting two town hall meetings to get direction from the community.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel said the meetings Wednesday are “step A of what is probably going to go to step D or E” before the borough makes any final decisions.
The meetings will give the mayor and community members opportunities to discuss aging public buildings, a huge maintenance backlog, dwindling state support and the borough’s options to address it, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .
The solutions under consideration include closing public buildings, reducing services and instituting new taxes.
The meetings are scheduled for noon and 6 p.m. at the Pioneer Park Exhibit Hall.
The meetings are coming after presentations by the Kassel administration to community groups, including the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.
The problem has been building for some time, Borough Chief of Staff Jim Williams said during an editorial board meeting at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“The old business model of flush oil wealth coming to our community, it’s over,” he said. “We’ve got to deal with this. We need to figure out what we are going to do as a community.”
Williams estimated the deferred maintenance backlog and capital projects needs will cost $500 million.
The No. 1 project on the list is $10 million for the road service area capital improvement program. No. 2 on the assembly’s list is completing renovations at Barnette Magnet School, which is expected to cost $12.6 million. No. 3 is $100,000 toward replacement of a 12-year-old ambulance.
The list also calls for $4.5 million for heated storage for emergency response equipment; $4 million for upgrades at the Big Dipper Ice Arena; $7 million to replace the ice plant at the Carlson Center; $16 million to replace the animal shelter; and $23 million for a new aquatics center to replace Hamme Pool and the Mary Siah Recreation Center, which is about 70 years old.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com