A view of downtown Juneau. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)

A view of downtown Juneau. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)

Mill rate increase, permits for large public gatherings at parks among items on busy Assembly agenda

Homeless campground, first look at FY25 budget, more summer city buses also on Monday’s schedule.

Increasing the property tax rate to 10.32 mills to fund a takeover of school district buildings in next year’s budget, moving some city offices into the so-called Permanent Fund building as of May 1, and requiring permits for gatherings of more than 100 people at public recreation sites are part of a lengthy and wide-ranging agenda for the Juneau Assembly’s meeting starting at 7 p.m. Monday.

The Assembly will also consider a controversial proposal relocating a campground for people experiencing homelessness to a lot near the cold weather emergency shelter in Thane. Public testimony will be allowed in-person and remotely, as the Assembly weighs options for the homeless when the cold weather emergency shelter closes in mid-April.

In addition, there are numerous smaller yet notable items such as funding extra city buses between downtown and the Mendenhall Glacier area during tourism season, approving $3 million for improvements at Adair Kennedy Baseball Field, and accepting a $431,870.34 donation from an individual’s estate for maintenance of Eaglecrest Ski Area.

The meeting kicks off a busy week for Assembly members who are scheduled during the following days to visit three buildings where the municipality is taking over some or all of the space, including Floyd Dryden Middle School and the Marie Drake Building that are being vacated by the Juneau School’s District as part of its pending consolation plan.

On Saturday the Assembly members are scheduled to have a day-long Finance Committee meeting as they begin in-depth work on crafting a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. There will be numerous committee and Assembly meetings addressing the budget, including opportunity for public testimony on the mill rate and other other items, before its scheduled approval June 3.

A mill rate increase to pay for taking over three school district buildings

The initial draft of the budget that will be officially introduced Monday includes the proposed 10.32 mill rate, an increase from the current 10.16 mills, based on costs related to taking over three school district buildings, according to a summary by City Manager Katie Koester. But she stated generally the city’s financial outlook appears to be relatively stable, and “the proposed budget assumes this is the last time CBJ will have the word ‘pandemic’ or ‘endemic’ included as it relates to COVID-19.”

“Much was learned during the pandemic about ourselves, our services and the variety of circumstances in which we can deliver core services to our community,” she wrote. “From a budget process perspective, we are grateful to have the chaotic financial implications of the pandemic in our rear-view mirror.”

In addition to Floyd Dryden and Marie Drake, the city is slated to take over the district’s administrative building. The takeover will cost about $1 million in additional operations costs, according to Koester. The Assembly has also agreed to take over $1.6 million in “shared costs” at facilities used by both the city and district for non-instructional purposes such as sports and cultural activities.

Evaluating new sites for city employees, with a move for some already underway

Beyond the takeover costs, city officials are also evaluating if the buildings are suitable to house some or all of the estimated 165 city employees currently working in five buildings downtown, following two failed ballot initiatives in the past two years to fund a new City Hall to replace the aging spaces employees are in. A report presented to Assembly members March 11 estimates initial conversion costs at Marie Drake and Floyd Dryden would be between $13.1 million and $31 million each to make them suitable for City Hall operations.

However, the city has already taken the first step toward relocating at least some operations at another possible site: the Michael J. Burns Building, which is the headquarters of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. A letter of intent to move staff now in the Municipal Way building as of May 1 has been signed with the real estate agent for the Burns building, according to a memo by Deputy City Manager Robert Barr.

“Due to ongoing construction activity resulting in a space that is unworkable, we are moving forward with moving staff out of the Municipal Way building into rented space at the Burns Building,” he wrote, adding “the departments impacted are most of Finance, all of (human relations), and Lands and Resources.”

Because a lease was signed for the Municipal Way building through July 1, “we will be overlapping payment for both spaces for May and June,” Barr wrote.

Moving most or all downtown employees into vacant space in the Burns building would cost about $5.1 million, according to Koester. However, while that is much lower than either of the school buildings being considered, because the city doesn’t own the Burns building there would also be roughly $1.6 million in annual lease and operations payments afterward, compared to $778,00o in operations at Floyd Dryden and $530,000 at Marie Drake.

Assembly members are scheduled to tour Floyd Dryden on Tuesday, Marie Drake on Thursday and the Burns Building on Monday, April 8.

Proposal would require permits for non-commercial gatherings of more than 100 people at city sites

An ordinance scheduled for a public hearing Monday would require organizers of non-commercial events for more than 100 people at city parks and recreation facilities to get a permit. Currently permits are only required for commercial activities or events where admission is charged.

“Things like concerts, festivals, or even large weddings do not require a permit even if they attract hundreds or thousands of people to a municipal park,” a summary of the ordinance by Koester states. “These types of events are happening more frequently, impacting the public’s ability to use parks and recreation facilities, and incurring significant costs to taxpayers due to excessive trash, litter, and overcrowded restrooms.”

“This ordinance will allow the Parks & Recreation Department to (1) manage the time, place, and manner of large events in public parks, (2) require reasonable conditions to protect public safety and property, and (3) recover costs through reasonable permit fees.”

Public testimony on the ordinance will be accepted during the meeting. The proposal was unanimously recommended by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee after meetings in November and December.

Other agenda items of note

Introduction of an ordinance appropriating up to $1,213,423 in general funds to match two local grant requirements related to a second Juneau-Douglas crossing. “These grants will provide funding for community outreach and the design phase of the North Douglas crossing,” according to Koester.

• Using $164,000 in Marine Passenger Fees for additional “tripper” Capital Transit busses during tourism season. It would expand both weekday and weekend service of Valley/Downtown Express Route 8, which includes a stop at the closest city bus site to the Mendenhall Glacier.

• Approving a bid by Dawson Construction LLC of $2,959,802.89 for improvements to Adair Kennedy Baseball Field.

• Accepting $431,870.34 from the Estate of Duane Levi Packer to the Eaglecrest Foundation to benefit Eaglecrest Ski Area’s maintenance department.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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