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Local legislators need to find way to advance UAF science project

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Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2010 3:54 am | Updated: 1:32 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS — The larger the capital budget, which could be north of $2 billion, the more unlikely it is any general obligation bond issue will pass in November.

That’s one reason why it’s a bad idea to endanger the top statewide construction priority for our university system by taking the bond route with the proposed science building at UAF.

Legislators might think piling up a few hundred million in additional debt will win favor with the voters, but I have my doubts. I wouldn’t be surprised if political climate change leads lawmakers now backing the bond option to lose their enthusiasm and turn frugal by the fall.

Legislators want to lump the science building in with an Anchorage basketball arena and other projects to try to get enough statewide support to sell a bond to voters across the state.

While basketball fans in Anchorage have been trying to portray a new 3,000-seat roundball arena as the top need for the UAA campus, even Anchorage regents have said it is critical to improve engineering and health sciences facilities and deal with other academic priorities before building a new

$80 million to $100 million gym.

Legislators should be listening to the regents, not to well-heeled Anchorage sports fans who haven’t considered all of the needs for higher education in our state.

There are many unanswered questions about the UAA basketball arena. These range from its size to its location and to why some portion of the project is not being financed by student fees and why hockey is not in the mix.

Until those questions are answered, as they will be in time, the legislative action is premature. 

Our legislative delegation should be fighting harder to get the UAF science building funded directly, at least with enough money to begin work this summer, instead of agreeing to this bond approach and accepting it as a foregone conclusion.

Perhaps a little more than half of the $40 million to be set aside for the proposed Alaska Railroad bridge in the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the capital budget should be shifted to the UAF science building, which is the top priority for Fairbanks.

That should give the Alaska Railroad board enough confidence to proceed with the railroad bridge at Salcha, and it would allow the most critical higher education need in the state to proceed at UAF.

Our legislative delegation should take a hint from the Karl Malden school of politics: Don’t come home without it.

•••

ANTI-LITTERATI: “The good news is spring is officially here,” says Glenn Hackney, the dean of the anti-litterati movement in Fairbanks. “The memorial mattress has shown up along the highway. It’s between Peger and Lathrop on the Mitchell.”

Cleanup Day is May 8, signaling the annual war against litter. As Sonny Corleone said in a slightly different context, “We go to the mattresses.”  

•••

RECOVERED: The ski bag that flew off a car on the Johansen Expressway Tuesday has been reunited with its owner. The man who picked up the bag tossed it in the back of his truck and didn’t know what to do with it. A friend found the owner’s name in the bag and made the right call.

“Thank you to Bill and Zia Gillespie and the unknown friend who picked up the bag,” said Gail Davidson. “I really appreciate the people of Fairbanks,” she said.

If you have a column item for me, call 459-7530 or write cole@newsminer.com.

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