Cold Climate Housing Research Center

Crane crews unhook a 25,000 gallon tank after placing it in a hole outside the Cold Climate Housing Research Center on Wednesday morning, Oct. 16, 2013, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The center plans to use the tank as a solar battery, storing energy from solar arrays to use for heat through the winter.

As part of his more than $34.7 million in capital budget line-item vetoes announced last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has zeroed out all state funding for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks. 

The center specializes in developing and testing energy efficient and cold climate-centered building designs in circumpolar regions around the world. 

According to CCHRC Director Jack Hebert, the $750,000 line-item veto slashes the center’s state funded core function budget and the funding will be difficult to replace. 

“Core funding is something the state has given us since we were founded 20 years ago, it enables us to pursue and manage all the grants we receive, it is also funding that allows us to have direct collaboration with home owners, builders, housing authorities, international partners, federal agencies for housing needs,” Hebert said.

The state funding allowed the facility to examine problems and have the base level of functions to then apply for further grants to address those problems, Hebert added. 

“It’s also all the money we use for public outreach. Last year alone we had 1,400 private consultations with folks walking in here asking questions about problems they were having with their home, and we were able to help them figure it out,” Hebert said. “The funding helps fund our ongoing relations with home industry agencies across the state, our research related to best practices for efficient housing design, our maintenance and occupancy expenses for our research and testing facility and our staff time for hosting national, state and international design leadership events, among others.”

Hebert said the loss of the funding leaves a significant void. 

“We’re going to be looking for private philanthropic organizations that might be able to help us,” Hebert said. “But that all takes time. Grants themselves, as a nonprofit, don’t have enough money built into the grants to cover the kind of overhead that it takes to run an organization. So there’s a big hole in our operation right now.”

The organization was expecting funding to be distributed July 1 and without the state support they’ve been granted in years past, their individual budget is sinking.

“Now we are running off our savings account and a little rollover and we can probably function until Jan. 1, but unless we can find money to support those core functions it’s going to be a sad day mid-winter,” Hebert said.

In a worst case scenario, the center may have to close but Hebert says he’s optimistic and determined. 

“We’re going to hang on and try to find a way, we’re not going to give up here, but this is a huge blow,” he said.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.