KTOO: Federal spending bill directs $16 million to Juneau projects

The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress late last year provides more than $16 million in funding for Juneau-based projects.

The funding items include ongoing analysis of a second bridge to Douglas and a new youth services center.

The city is getting $2.5 million to design and build a commercial-scale composting facility. City Manager Rorie Watt said that will help extend the life of the local landfill, which has about 20 years left at its current usage level.

“It’s in our interest that it not fill up any faster than necessary,” he said. “Once the landfill is full, people will have to pay more money, in all likelihood, to ship their garbage south.”

It could also reduce wastewater treatment costs by helping keep compostable material out of garbage disposals. Watt said the location of the facility is yet to be determined, but the gravel pit near Costco and Home Depot is an option. Juneau Composts, a privately-owned service, leases land from the city nearby.

The city will also get $7 million toward building a second bridge between Douglas Island and Juneau. Watt said a second bridge could help improve access to land on Douglas where new housing could be built. It could also speed up police and firefighter responses to incidents on Douglas and improve Juneau residents’ access to the Eaglecrest ski area.

“It’s been a community goal for decades and decades,” he said.

The federal funding will help the city continue its environmental and site selection process. Watt estimates that the project would likely cost more than $100 million and take several years of planning and community meetings.

The University of Alaska Southeast will receive $750,000 to create a commercial driver’s license training program. On a call with reporters after the bill’s passage, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said there’s a longstanding need for a program unique to Southeast Alaska, where communities might lack some of the road features required to get the license.

“If you don’t have on and off ramps in a place like Ketchikan or Utqiagvik, how do you get your CDL?” Murkowski said.

The bill also puts $5 million toward a new building meant to house several local nonprofits that serve families and children, including a child care center.

JAMHI, which provides behavioral and mental health services in Juneau, will get $870,000 to renovate and expand its youth services center.

By:  Katie Anastas
Source: KTOO

Related Issues: Budget, Spending, and the National Debt