This photo shows the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee agreed to move forward with a pair of proposals to study potential future options for the JACC and Centennial Hall. (Michael Penn  /Juneau Empire File)

Assembly could seek new plan for New JACC

A new study could offer new options

Although it’s been a while since any performances or meetings have taken place at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center or Centennial Hall, city leaders are looking to the future.

On Wednesday night, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee agreed to move forward with a pair of proposals to study potential future options and to begin the process of upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Centennial Hall.

Next, an appropriation ordinance will be introduced to the assembly for a public hearing on the plans.

The first proposal, which passed with a six to three vote, is to spend $75,000 to study possibilities related to creating an expanded, joint facility that can be used as a convention center, public gathering hall and arts center.

The question prompted robust discussion among committee members.

Supporters of the idea noted that the project is an opportunity to get more information about a new approach and to possibly have a shovel-ready project if federal funding becomes available later this year.

Those who opposed the project cited concerns about the optics of the expenditure in the current economic environment and the long history of controversy surrounding any discussion of options at the site.

“This is tough. I support the motion at this time, but it doesn’t mean I’ll support it in the end” said Mayor Beth Weldon.

City Manager Rorie Watt said scope, schedule and budget makeup the three-part stool of any project, and that if the assembly appropriates money for the effort, he expects there to be discussion of all three topics.

“I agree with the need for planning. But, we need to make it clear that we need a phased plan and that this is part of a normal planning process. The assembly needs to make it known that we do care about costs.” said Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski, who supported the proposal.

A 2019 ballot initiative to provide a New JACC project with a $4.5 million grant that was voted down also factored into the discussion.

“This is not the same project the voters turned down. We don’t have to fund out of CBJ. In my mind, it’s worth our while to understand this a little better than we do now,” said Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, who voted yes.

Assembly members Carole Triem, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Loren Jones all voted no.

“I agree these are problems we need to get solved and planning is needed. I actually like the project, and I’m not going to be upset if it goes forward. But, while it’s a relatively small appropriation, there are other small ones getting close scrutiny. People are suffering financially. I don’t think this is the time to hire a consultant and go back into this process,” Hughes-Skandijs said.

Updating the existing building

On the second proposal, the committee authorized the transfer of $500,000 of sales tax funding slated for other repairs to begin the process to upgrade Centennial Hall’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in a six to three vote.

“There are potential energy savings with these renovations, said Hughes-Skandijs, who voted yes.

“By getting this going, we can achieve these savings now. This ties to a bond package the voters did approve so I think it’s really important whatever mechanism we use that we keep this going,” she continued.

Gladziszewski, Hale and Assembly member Greg Smith voted against the motion.

“I’d rather not take the money from deferred maintenance projects,”Gladziszewski said.

If passed, funding would come from a variety of projects on the docket, including the Mount Jumbo Gym Roof, pool improvements and covers and deferred building maintenance.

Adding staff

The Engineering and Public Works Department received approval to reinstate an Architect 1 position that was originally cut from the engineering budget.

Once filled, the person who fills the role will primarily contribute to projects at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Contact Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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