Anchorage Assembly’s vote against Navigation Center funding draws reaction
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said it was difficult for her to vote against continued funding for a much-maligned Navigation Center off Elmore Road. LaFrance was one of nine assembly members Tuesday evening who voted against the center to shelter homeless Anchorage residents proposed by Mayor Dave Bronson.
“Honestly, it kind of broke my heart to vote no on that,” LaFrance said. “So much work had gone into a collaborative process between the administration and the assembly and community members, and a recognition that yeah, we do need overnight shelter.”
LaFrance said she and other assembly members lost confidence that the administration had a handle on costs for the project — to complete it or to operate it. She said the assembly wasn’t kept informed and requested information didn’t always arrive.
“You have to do the work to get support, and you have to show and share the information,” LaFrance said. “And you have to make sure people who are making funding decisions feel confident.”
Funding was another issue, as much of the money the assembly was being asked to approve has already been spent. Members of Bronson’s administration admitted it mistakenly gave a contractor the go-ahead to do work before it was approved by the assembly.
“You can’t just go forward with spending $4.9 million when the code says you need assembly approval that’s a really big deal, “LaFrance said.
Mayor Bronson expressed his frustration in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
“With their vote, the Assembly has wasted 15 months of progress that included thousands of hours of negotiations, numerous public meetings, and efforts made by my Administration to address their concerns and answer their questions,” Bronson wrote.
Referring to the work which was already completed, Bronson said “This has left a reputable, long-time Alaskan company unpaid for work already performed to the tune of $3.2 million. Because of the Assembly’s action last night, the Municipality will likely get sued by this contractor and our reputation as a good business partner has been severely damaged. "
LaFrance said different assembly members have different opinions on how and when the contractor should be repaid and the assembly is consulting its attorneys. She said attorneys for the assembly have been asked to weigh in on the best course of action.
“Really, it’s up to the administration how to proceed at this point,” LaFrance said.
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