City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Carole Triem and Deputy City Manager Robert Barr chat during a break at the Wednesday night Finance Committee meeting. Community groups were invited to give presentations that explained their community funding requests sent to the Assembly for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Carole Triem and Deputy City Manager Robert Barr chat during a break at the Wednesday night Finance Committee meeting. Community groups were invited to give presentations that explained their community funding requests sent to the Assembly for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City mulls community funding request amid budget-making process

The requests range from $2,000 up to $1.4 million.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly is fielding several community funding requests as it begins to hone down its budget for the fiscal year 2024. Of the requests, they range in asks from $2,000 up to $1.4 million.

Here’s a breakdown of what community asks are on the table as of now.

— $1.02 million for an elevator installed at the Dimond Park Fieldhouse

Southeast Alaska Independent Living director Joan O’Keefe spoke to the Assembly Wednesday evening at its Finance Committee meeting in advocacy for a requested $1.02 million in funding to go toward the construction of an elevator at the city-owned Dimond Park Fieldhouse.

The field house’s main level is a turf field that is often used by local soccer teams, while the building’s second level has a mezzanine and a public indoor track. There are more than a dozen stairs between the ground floor and the mezzanine, and an additional six stairs from the mezzanine to the track.

The proposed elevator would be a full-functioning elevator, and rise from the ground floor to stop at both the mezzanine and track.

O’Keefe said adding an elevator to the building will make the building more accessible to all residents and said it’s “the right thing to do.” She argued the fieldhouse is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Assembly member Wade Bryson expressed concern about the high estimated cost of the elevator and asked if there was a way to decrease it. Ideas suggested were installing a lift with a small ramp, or a less “full-fledged” elevator.

“Is there a way we can do this without that million-dollar price tag,” he said, asking O’Keefe.

She argued a full elevator is more durable than a lift and more appropriate for the building.

— $1.4 million to add 28 permanent supportive housing units in Juneau.

Members of the Juneau Housing First Collaborative met with the Assembly to discuss its request for $1.4 million to go toward its plans to add additional 28 housing units to its existing Forget-Me-Not Manor facility in the Lemon Creek area.

The $1.4 million is only partial funding for the project, as the project is estimated to cost a total of $5.3 million. According to Joyce Niven, vice president of Administration at Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, CBJ’s funding support will help the authority to secure other grant funding necessary to complete the build, expected to begin construction in the Spring of 2024.

“We can use that commitment as leverage funding on those grant applications and give us more points to hopefully enable us to be successful recipients of the grant funds,” she said.

The project is considered to be the third phase of the authority’s development of the Forget-Me-Not Manor facility, which since 2017 has opened up 64 units of permanent supportive housing and 58 emergency shelter spaces in Juneau.

— $336,000 requested for server replacement, encoder/decoder streaming equipment replacement for Gavel Alaska.

Wayne Jensen, the chair of the Alaska Committee — a nonprofit that promotes Juneau as Alaska’s capital city — spoke to the Assembly about the committee’s request seeking $336,000 in city funding to replace pieces of equipment that are necessary to continue its Gavel Alaska program, an online streaming service that has offered live and archived video of legislative affairs since 1995.

“Regular components that support this program have aged out and need to be replaced,” Jensen said.

Of the full request, around $271,000 will go toward replacing the streaming server itself, while the remaining $64,000 ask would go toward replacing encoder/decoder streaming equipment.

Jensen argued it is part of the city’s responsibility to make sure it is doing its part to provide capitol services to the rest of the state.

“Being the capital city is a privilege that comes with responsibility which includes being of service to the rest of the state — Gavel Alaska is one of the ways we show we take that responsibility seriously,” he said

Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly member Greg Smith both serve on the committee.

Juneau Economic Development Council Executive Director Brian Holst (left) and board member Garrett Schoenberger (right) give a presentation to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly at its Finance Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Community groups were invited to give presentations that explained their community funding requests sent to the Assembly for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Juneau Economic Development Council Executive Director Brian Holst (left) and board member Garrett Schoenberger (right) give a presentation to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly at its Finance Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Community groups were invited to give presentations that explained their community funding requests sent to the Assembly for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

— $70,000 requested by the Juneau Economic Development Council for operations and grant matching support.

JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst and board member Garrett Schoenberger spoke to the Assembly in advocacy for $70,000 in city funding to go toward its operations and grant matching support.

The request is an addition to the $400,000 the city has already proposed to allocate to the council in its budget.

Of the $70,000 additional funding request, $40,000 is proposed to go toward increasing the JEDC’s “base core funding” which pays for things like JEDC projects and work plans. The other $30,000 would go to leverage U.S. Forest Service funding for the Visitor Products Cluster Working Group that the JEDC supports.

The VPCWG works to strengthen the visitor industry in Southeast Alaska. Holst said if the $30,000 is not funded by the city, it will be pulled from the JEDC’s core funding.

Weldon is a board member and Assembly member Carole Triem serves as the board’s Assembly liaison.

— $234,094 requested by Alaska Heat Smart for operations.

Alaska Heat Smart, a Juneau air-source heat pump nonprofit and advocacy group, met with the Assembly to advocate for a CBJ grant of $235,094 that would fund an increase to its staffing hours.

The nonprofit offers free energy efficiency and heat pump information to Juneau homeowners. Heat pumps in recent years have grown in popularity as they are considered to be more efficient at generating heat than certain other types of home heating.

Steve Behnke, board president of the nonprofit, argued supporting electrification of heating and accelerating the adoption of heat pumps in Juneau is “one of the most significant cost-effective actions” that CBJ can take to cut the cost of living and climate pollution. The ask is $93,000 more than the group’s request last budget cycle.

“Everyone that has a heat pump can save an average of $1,700 a year, which is a big chunk for a lot of people, but we need continuing program and increased staff time to meet this potential,” he said.

— $25,000 to replace and expand Juneau Nordic Ski Team trail grooming equipment.

Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, business manager of the Juneau Nordic Ski Team, spoke to the Assembly via Zoom on behalf of the team which is seeking $25,000 from the city to support its plans to replace and expand its snow grooming equipment.

The ski team is a nonprofit organization and offers its grooming services throughout Juneau for free to outdoor recreationists throughout the winter.

Knutson-Lombardo said the funding requested would go toward replacing one of the ski team’s snow machines, which is used to pull grooming attachments, as well as funding the purchase of a full new set of equipment including a snow machine, grooming implements and trailer.

The city’s contribution would only pay for a portion of the costs, Knutson-Lombardo explained, as the total cost of the equipment is estimated to be $75,000.

“Just like the city provides support for swimming pools and downhill skiing, we believe the city should also support a recreation opportunity that literally Juneaites participate in each winter — it’s true community service,” he said.

— Additional requests that are still up for consideration but were not discussed during Wednesday night’s meeting included the reconsideration of three requests that during last Wednesday’s meeting were voted down. Those requests include a $500,000 request from the Sealaska Heritage Institute, a $75,000 request from the Downtown Business Association and a $17,700 request from Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

Requests from the Juneau Fireworks crew for a $2,000 increase in funding and another request from the Rock Dump Indoor Climbing Gym for $500,000 were also moved to the city’s pending list for further consideration.

City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire that at the Assembly’s Finance Committee meeting Wednesday night next week the remaining requestors will be allowed to give a presentation, and following that a vote on all requests will take place.

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