Juneau’s city fire department could be receiving a boost in staffing.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly will hear an update on how many possible additional Capital City and Fire Rescue crew members could be hired during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.
On July 12, CCFR Fire Chief Rich Etheridge talked to the Committee of the Whole about the recent struggles with the department’s lack of staffing. Etheridge, along with public safety consulting firm Fitch and Associates members, partner Steve Knight and senior consultant BJ Jungmann, discussed a staffing and operations audit on CCFR.
While several recommendations were given, the group said they believed staffing was the biggest need that should be addressed sooner rather later. The main reason for this recommendation was due to the increasing number of calls from 2010 to 2017 from 3,486 to 5,077. The majority of those calls, nearly 76 percent, are for emergency medical services, while 18 percent are for fire-related incidents.
Members of COW agreed and voted to have city staff draft an ordinance that could detail adding anywhere between four to six staff members to the department’s crew. City Manager Rorie Watt explained having that motion set forward at the July 12 meeting would allow staff time to have more information ready for Monday’s meeting. The goal is to have a public hearing set for Aug. 13. Watt also said approving the ordinance to be drafted also gives the fire department more time to recruit.
Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove did not have an exact figure on just how much the additional crew members would cost but estimated it would fall somewhere between $400-500 thousand.
The city looks into ballot measures
Three ballot measures will be the topics at hand during the city’s Finance Committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
The first topic on the agenda is whether or not funding for a new pre-kindergarten program will be placed on the Oct. 2 municipal ballot.
The Juneau Best Starts program has been in front of the city since city budgetary talks on May 3. After the city agreed not to fund the pre-K program, members of Best Starts, led by Joy Lyon, Executive Director of Association for the Education of Young Children of Southeast Alaska brought back the topic as part of the ballot measure. The measure will ask the public if funding, in the amount of $2.8 million, adjusted for annual inflation, of CBJ funding in the fifth year when the program is fully implemented, should be paid for by property tax revenue.
The idea of the program is to better prepare children before they enter kindergarten. According to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood Care and Development, only 32 percent of kindergarten students in Juneau demonstrate 11 of 13 goals determined by the department as “kindergarten ready.” The goal of the program is to give child care providers financial incentives. The idea is that the incentives will increase teacher wages and improve learning environments. The program’s incentive awards are based on the number of children in the class and quality level of teaching, based on Learn & Grow, Alaska’s statewide Quality Recognition and Improvement System. Incentives would range between $125-$250 per month per child. Currently, 149 programs participate in Alaska in the statewide Quality Recognition and Improvement System.
Centennial Hall renovations
The city will also discuss a possible ballot measure that would lead to renovations at Centennial Hall through the city’s hotel bed tax.
During a Finance Committee meeting on June 13, Juneau Arts & Humanities Council partnership board members Bud Carpeneti, John Clough and building program manager Bob Banghart made a presentation asking the CBJ to place a $12 million general obligation bond measure on the upcoming city municipal election Oct. 2 ballot to fund Centennial Hall renovations. The $12 million breaks down to $7.5 million to the New Juneau Arts and Culture Center and Centennial Hall, and $4.5 million, already approved to the venue by sales tax revenue, would go toward Centennial Hall. The $7.5 million will come in from a combination of property taxes and a hotel bed tax. Hotel bed tax is the amount of taxes visitors pay to stay in a hotel room. There will also be a discussion of raising hotel bed tax from 5 to 7 percent.
The renovations come into play for the design of the New JACC. In the new design plan, the New JACC will be connected physically to Centennial Hall. This particular design features a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, an expansion of Centennial Hall’s lobby, the construction of a portion of the New JACC and an enclosed and heated corridor between the two buildings. The total cost of the New JACC project is estimated to be $31 million, which is about $5 million more than originally proposed.
All of these measures, if they advance during Wednesday’s meeting, will need to be approved by the CBJ Assembly by Aug. 13 in order to be ready for the October ballot.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.