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Public restrooms, solar panels among proposed projects in Anchorage 2021 capital budget

(Taylor Clark)
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 8:21 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Public restrooms, solar panel upgrades and a large amount of infrastructure maintenance are among the proposed projects contained in Anchorage’s 2021 Capital Improvements Budget.

The $56.8 million budget was passed at the Anchorage Assembly’s Nov. 17 meeting, but that doesn’t guarantee every project listed will go forward. The next step is to send the projects back before the Assembly for approval to go on the April ballot.

“We’ll take that capital improvement budget, and it is the first year of a six-year program, and that first year will become basically the foundation of where we start building the 2021 bonds for general obligation for roads, and parks, and public safety,” said Lance Wilber, director of the municipality’s Office of Management and Budget.

Wilber added this year’s capital improvement plan budget is slightly smaller than the previous year’s, though roughly in line with the average over the last five. The majority of the budget is dedicated to the upkeep of roads, parks and buildings.

“It focuses on making sure that we are maintaining the infrastructure that we have,” Wilber said. “The process starts with selections or requests from community councils, and it ends with the Assembly.”

One project added while the budget was before the Assembly was a four-year plan to begin constructing public restrooms around the municipality. The proposal came from Assembly Member Christopher Constant, who represents Downtown Anchorage.

“It’s just no longer acceptable that shop owners have to clean up human waste outside of the businesses when they come in because there’s nowhere for people who are wandering about to go,” he said. “And it’s not acceptable that tourists who visit Anchorage have to purchase something, or go into a restaurant, and that there is no public place for them to go.”

The proposal would put a $250,000 project into each CIP budget over the next four years, for two restrooms each year. Locations haven’t been selected yet, but that will be part of the process moving forward, according to Wilber.

“We’ll be working with the sponsors to find out exactly where they’ll be located, how big they will be, what they will look like, how they’re going to be maintained,” he said.

Another project Wilber noted was an initiative to install solar panels on a number of municipal buildings around town to save on long-term utility costs.

“We’re going to be putting some solar infrastructure on top of about 11 public facilities,” he said. “A lot of fire stations, I think some parks, buildings and things like that.”

In the coming months, Wilber and the rest of the OMB will be working to consolidate these projects into the appropriate category of bond to go before the Assembly in January. Bonds that pass then will go on the April ballot for a final decision from the voters.

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