Community leaders dig into a list of planned public works projects worth over $250 million for the next decade and beyond at a finance committee meeting Thursday.
They’re working on a list of 80 projects, from a $250,000 pickleball court to a $100 million new indoor track and field complex. Projects were evaluated and prioritized based on need, potential for grants and community support, according to the district information officer.
Borough Mayor Bryce Ward plans to fund some of them with property tax revenues over the next 10 years. The district assembly will review the plan and make a final decision in March. The projects are up for discussion at a Finance Committee meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Mona Lisa Drexler meeting rooms.
The five highest-scoring projects are an accessible playground for Pioneer Park ($3.5 million), the Chena Heritage Multi-Purpose Center ($18.7 million), utilities at Pioneer Park ($4 million US$), the North Star Athletics Complex (US$100 million) and the implementation of the Isberg Area Master Plan (US$2.7 million).
The next five highest-scoring projects on the list are upgrades to North Pole’s Fifth Avenue Park ($1.8 million), repair and improvement of Lathrop High School’s kitchen ($2.5 million) , Skyline Ridge Park Trail System Development ($1 million) and Tanana Middle School Classroom Upgrades Phase One ($8.9 million) and Tanana Middle School Exterior Renovation ($2.8 million) .
Lanien Livingston, the district’s public information officer, explained the process for evaluating the projects.
“The project assessment took into account existing construction conditions, impact on the operating budget, community support and the potential for outside funding (grants, etc.),” Livingston wrote in an email to News-Miner. “Projects that perform better were part of existing plans and would solve existing maintenance issues.”
The construction projects are being reviewed in accordance with an update to the district’s capital improvement program.
The process began last year with project nominations and culminates in a final vote by the Borough Assembly. The outcome of this vote will be a chart showing public works priorities through 2032, although it is not binding and future leaders will have the power to make changes.
CIP projects that have been previously approved and are ongoing or have begun include phase one of a renovation of the SS Nenana, construction of a new grant-funded transit garage, repairs to the North Pole municipal swimming pool and upgrades at the Grown Memorial Park.
Since the establishment of the capital improvement program in 2020, the district has provided funds to begin design work on at least three major projects. These are the proposed new indoor athletics complex that officials plan to build in phases, a new animal shelter and a transformation of the Noel Wien Public Library.
For the upcoming fiscal year 2022-2023, Ward proposes to allocate money for the renovation of the Noel Wien Public Library ($9.4 million); improvements to the softball fields at South Davis Park ($1.1 million); Installation of new Internet and wireless capabilities at Carlson Center ($450,000); Removal of an underground kashim at Pioneer Park and repairs to Cabin 36 ($200,000); exterior renovation of North Pole Middle School ($2.1 million); Small Building Repair at Pioneer Park ($1 million); new floors and interiors at Two Rivers Elementary School ($329,000); Wescott Pool Waterslide Replacement ($300,000); exterior renovation of Tanana Middle School ($2.8 million); and Hamme Pool Repairs ($625,000).
The Mayor is also proposing to begin design work on the following projects: Consolidation and modernization of youth baseball facilities; revitalization of the Chena Lake recreation area; Pioneer Park Utility repair and improvements; and Wescott pool roof repair.
Livingston explained how the mayor set his priorities.
“Projects with a higher score generally got into the plan earlier,” she wrote. “Large projects that performed well, like North Star, were placed in a methodology that allowed the initial phases of the project (scoping or design) without all of the Capital Improvement Program Maintenance Reserve (CIPMR) resources to build at the expense of others to consume maintenance projects. If we don’t properly stagger the phases of these larger projects, we consume resources and delay the completion of other smaller projects.”
If Ward’s proposal is valid, these are the projects that will be prioritized next year: a new boat launch and dock at Pioneer Park ($350,000); a new climbing wall, zip line or slide at Hamme Pool ($500,000); Pioneer Park Welcome Sign ($550,000); Lathrop kitchen remodel ($2.5 million); University Park Elementary School traffic management and playground renovation ($1.5 million); and Replacement for Drawbucks at Pioneer Park ($3.5 million).