“Old things break” could sum up the last year for St. Vincent de Paul Juneau, as the organization has dealt with burst pipes, oil leaks and a persistently potholed parking lot.
Now, the charitable organization is looking forward to the future as it works to rapidly address the issues and prevent future breakages.
“When I got into this job I thought my biggest problem would be deferred maintenance,” said SVDP general manager Dave Ringle in an interview. “When you’re looking at water heaters, fire panels, we are looking at a multi-year investment in getting our buildings up to snuff.”
All of this has been on top of running the warming shelter for the City and Borough of Juneau, a non-trivial effort that lasted for more than a year of pandemic, only ending recently, for which he was grateful, Ringle said.
“We’re dealing with the biggest possible issues first,” Ringle said. “We’ll look at what we need and replace things with the vision to try and upgrade so we can continue to serve. Our goal is to develop a plan that systematizes it.”
A number of the issues come from decisions made decades ago, predating even longtime manager Dan Austin, as short-term solutions to issues come home to roost, Ringle said. Austin, who managed SVDP for 20 years, passed away several years ago.
“These are all decisions that were made 25-30 years ago,” Ringle said. “You don’t solve a problem that’s taken 25 years to develop in 25 days.”
Austin tried to keep staff to a minimum, Ringle said, which is similar to the current goal of updating infrastructure and establishing systemized maintenance so that the structure can continue to serve efficiently for years to come.
“That’s part of the dream of Dan Austin, to make it so he could run this organization with as little outside aid as possible,” Ringle said. “That’s an ambitious goal.”
One of the saving graces of the organization has been the skill set of members of the board, Ringle said, from engineers to maintenance specialists.
“One of the beauties is you can see people coming out of the woodwork to help at the opportune times,” Ringle said. “It’s humbling and it’s been a real blessing for the organization.”
The parking lot, currently being replaced by SECON on a discounted bid, will be one of the first major fixes to be completed, Ringle said, with paving due to wrap up Monday or Tuesday.
“The pavement will probably be done on Monday,” Ringle said. “The foreman on the parking lot is a former student of mine. It’s great to see people coming back to Juneau and contributing.”
Other issues on the agenda include dealing with an oil-fired boiler that had been leaking into the soil, insufficient insulation in the roof space that allowed sprinkler lines to freeze and burst in the winter, a fire-safety panel that needed updating, finding a new insurance provider, and siding for the building itself, Ringle said. None of them are cheap, Ringle said, but as they get overhauled, SVDP can do it in a fashion that sets up the organization for the future.
“We basically have the needs identified. We’re getting bids,” Ringle said. “The second step is, if we budget for an appropriate amount of maintenance each year, it’ll become sustainable. But it’s not going to be sustainable until we get the insurance down and take care of emergency maintenance.”
All of this is intended to serve in SVDP’s mission of mercy, Ringle said, a perpetually worth cause.
“Getting people off the street and into housing is one of the highest forms of aid. To do that, the housing has to be safe and healthy,” Ringle said. “I think there will always be a need to help those in need. There’s a satisfaction in being part of it.”
Ringle said SVDP is currently working to find grants, looking at organizations like the Alaska Mental Health Trust and the Rasmuson Foundation, as well as grants for things like replacing the oil-fired boiler with an electric one, or Environmental Protection Agency assistance for recovering the leaked oil.
Currently, a foundation that preferred anonymity is partnering with SVDP, offering funds-matching for any donations up to half a million dollars, Ringle said. To help out, check out https://SVDPjuneau.org or contact them at 907-789-5535.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.