Empire Live: Assembly meets to discuss Vintage Park and Heat$mart

Vintage Park land to be used for assisted living

Summary: The City and Borough of Juneau will begin the process of putting together sealed competitive bidding for developing the Vintage Park subdivision it just bought into assisted living housing, the Assembly voted Monday night. It will also provide a grant of $147,000 to Heat$mart for costs associated with getting the organization off the ground, so it can begin effectively working with homeowners to increase heating efficiency and give homeowners data and support for purchasing and installing heat pumps in their homes.

9:05 p.m. If the city wins its bid for the Alaska Mental Health Trust property, the Assembly will have to have a quick meeting to confirm the ordinance on Sept. 12. The meeting will only occur if the city wins its bid for the property.

“We should feel really good about the progress we’ve made,” said Watt, talking about how the Assembly had been meeting its goals, in an uncertain time with the state budget. Watt said that the Assembly has done well, and to begin thinking about what its goals in the future will be for the upcoming budget.

8:23 p.m. Heat$mart will also provide advice for saving money in heating homes by providing technical advice on how to improve homes with smaller steps, such as fixing windows, before making the jump of switching to a heat pump, Behnke said.

Jones asked if they had any idea where they wanted to go, and what benchmarks Heat$mart wanted to hit, before the Assembly committed to providing them with grant money.

“We don’t know what kind of interest our program is going to get,” said Behnke.

Edwardson expressed concern about increasing cost and scarcity of fossil fuels and what that would do down the line.

“At what point does it become a problem and who does it become a problem for,” Edwardson said.

The Mayor proposed an ordinance directing the city manager to prepare an ordinance to provide a grant of $147,000 to Heat$mart.

“I think we need to support this but I also think we need to heed the members who have spoken up about the lack of information,” said Edwardson.

“For every gallon of fuel purchased, 95 cents out of the dollar leaves the town,” said Bryson. “This is going to be good for the environment and this is going to be a positive economic step for every house in Juneau.”

The motion was carried 8-1, with only Jones objecting.

7:26 p.m. The Juneau Renewable Energy Strategy, adopted in 2018, aims to reach a target of 80 percent use of renewable energy by 2045. Some of the avenues for achieving this objective include adopting several electric vehicles for use as the city fleet and converting home heating apparatus from fossil fueled heaters to heat pumps. Members of the organization came before the Assembly to propose a $180,000 grant to get Heat$mart off the ground.

Bryson raised concerned about where upgrades to heat pumps would require upgrades to the power grid. Steve Behnke, member of Heat$mart, said that upgrading to heat pumps from electric resistance heating will actually save power. Heat$mart is a Juneau based organization aimed at helping homeowners improve their houses by upgrading to heat pumps.

“Upgrading from both fossil fueled heat systems and electric resistance heating, we’ll about break even,” said Behnke.

6:47 p.m. “We want someone experienced in assisted living development,” Ciambor said. “I think this process will help suss out the details.”

The Assembly will make the final decisions on the sale based on the proposals, Ciambor said. Watt said that the likely action will be to pass ordinances to enable such assistance as the proposals require to go forward.

“We choose based on quality and the Assembly confirms,” said Watt.

The motion to begin the process of the sealed competitive bid process was passed unanimously.

6:31 p.m. “We want the best developer with the best project,” said Watt.

Proposals will be selected based on experience, qualified staff, superior site design, financial feasibility, and other characteristics. Cost is one of the concerns, Watt said, but it’s not the only one.

“The thing that worries me is that stuff comes to us without any time for changes,” said Rob Edwardson, member of the Assembly with the concern that proposals for developing the land might not have enough time for modification or wipe out all funding for affordable development projects.

6:23 p.m. “Tax abatement, land, and grants. Those are the three levers we have at our disposal,” said Rorie Watt, Juneau city manager.

The city will utilize these incentives as options for a bidder to put together a proposal to develop the land.

“It allows developers to figure out which component fits best in their plan,” Ciambor said.

“We are trying to lower the cost of this project because our seniors are going to be paying the bill,” said Wade Bryson, member of the Assembly. “I didn’t see the cost per month in these criteria, which I would think is most important,” Bryson said, voicing a desire to keep the tail-end cost to the senior residents as low as possible.

6:15 p.m. “The overall goal is senior housing,” said Juneau chief housing officer Scott Ciambor.

The Assembly purchased the Vintage Park land in August, with the understanding that it would be used for senior assisted living. Now, they’ll attempt to put together their method for selecting a developer for the land. Certain criteria suggested by Ciambor is are experience, previous work with the city, efficiency, and flexibility.

“Basically, what we’re trying to do is develop senior assisted housing,” said Loren Jones, member of the Assembly.

6:00 p.m. The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meets tonight, Aug. 26, to discuss the disposal of land in Vintage Park, to be used for assisted living units. They will begin searching for developers soon. The Assembly will also discuss the bid to secure harbor land in downtown Juneau.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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