Local News

Committee prioritizes capital projects

Ketchikan’s legislative liaison committee met Monday to rank capital project funding requests submitted to the committee by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, City of Ketchikan and City of Saxman.

The committee includes representatives from all three governments. They meet every year to consider projects and recommend a prioritized list that then goes back to each government body for final approval.

The committee’s recommended top priority is $20 million to help remodel Ketchikan Medical Center, the city-owned hospital that is run by PeaceHealth.

The second item on the list is $1 million to help develop the Mahoney Lake Hydroelectric project, a public-private partnership between the City of Saxman, Cape Fox Corporation and Alaska Power and Telephone.

Jason Custer, the Mahoney Lake Partnership chairman, said the project is a 9.6 megawatt lake tap, rather than a dam. He said an access road to the lake has been built, and the partners already have spent about $4 million toward developing Mahoney.

“The activities that we proposed in this $1 million investment, those activities are going to allow us to pinpoint the cost of constructing the project with a greater degree of accuracy, they’re going to allow us with a greater degree of accuracy what the cost per kilowatt hour would be,” he said. “Those numbers would be essential to any kind of business arrangement for the project, such as a power sales agreement with an existing utility, or a power sales agreement with a large-scale commercial or industrial consumer, such as a mining company.”

Custer said the current rough cost estimate is $46 million. Once construction begins, it will take about two years for the project to start generating power.

The committee’s third priority is $1.8 million to help renovate the downtown Fireside Building into a performing arts center. The building is on Main Street, directly across from the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council. In addition to a new theater, it would offer office, studio and rehearsal space for Ketchikan Theatre Ballet and First City Players.

Jen Castle, a volunteer with the Performing Arts Center steering committee, said the total project cost for the center is $4.7 million. She said the requested state funds would help secure grants to complete the center.

“It means a lot for several different reasons — recognition by our local government that this is a priority project,” she said. “The arts reach far and wide in the community, whether people are participating or viewing. It was nice to get the recognition that Ketchikan is a community that has a diverse group of people who are interested in the arts. Also, securing a priority ranking on the list will allow us to gain some attention in Juneau that would have been a little harder to get were we not on the list.”

Some work at the center already has been completed, including a facility conditions survey, a concept design and a construction cost estimate. Part of the ground floor has been remodeled as an office space for First City Players, which will move in next week.

Other requests on the committee’s recommended list, in order, are $12.7 million for city bridge repairs; $4 million for borough road construction and repairs; $550,000 for the Saxman Community Center parking lot; and $11 million for continued improvements at the Ketchikan Shipyard.

The list is used to create capital projects booklet, which eventually is submitted to the Legislature and governor. The booklet indicates what local projects are most important to the community for state funding.

Community agencies still can submit funding requests for projects. The deadline to submit requests is October 15th. The committee will consider community agency requests in November. After that, the municipal governments will give final approval to the list. The booklet should be complete and ready for distribution in January.

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