FNSB Assembly Meeting

People attend a Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly meeting July 28, 2016.

For the second time in two months, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly has postponed a decision to issue a $7.5 million loan being sought by the Interior Gas Utility.

IGU has requested the money to continue work on capital improvement projects as they have expended almost all of their $125 million in loans provided the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

Officials are seeking another $13.4 million in private financing.

IGU is a voter-approved, borough-owned utility, but was set up to protect area taxpayers from financial liability.

A work session with IGU General Manager Dan Britton and board Chair Pamela Throop has been scheduled for Thursday to discuss the loan. The issue will be up again for consideration at the assembly’s June 27 meeting.

At Thursday’s meeting, Britton asked the assembly to postpone the loan request pending approval from AIDEA.

As the primary lender of funds, AIDEA approval is required for IGU to incur any single debt above $1 million, or cumulative debt more than $5 million.

Britton is not sure when to expect AIDEA’s decision.

The utility is also waiting to hear whether AIDEA will give IGU permission to issue state-backed revenue bonds between $50 million and $75 million, which would be partially used to repay the loans.

The assembly first postponed a vote on the ordinance in late April, among concerns that the utility will be unable to repay funds.

Money for the loan was set aside in 2014, before the utility went through significant organizational changes.

The ordinance states that the risk of nonrepayment is greater than when the money was set aside.

Short-term loans are needed to continue work on various expansion projects in the borough, especially storage tanks in Fairbanks and North Pole, and design work on gas liquefaction infrastructure in Southcentral Alaska.

Plastic bags

With a 5-3 vote, the assembly Thursday approved a resolution urging the Alaska Legislature to pass House Bill 81, which would, in most instances, ban the use of disposable plastic shopping bags.

Assemblymen Shaun Tacke, Christopher Quist and Aaron Lojewski voted against the resolution, although they all acknowledged the challenges posed by the ubiquitous litter.

Lojewski said that even though alcohol and smoking cause problems, he wouldn’t ban those.

Quist supports taking action, but he’s “not 100% convinced an outright ban is the right way to go,” and he found Lojewski’s argument “compelling.”

Tacke agreed, “I believe there needs to be some sort of regulations and controls over plastic bags, but economic incentive will change someone’s behavior rather than just blanket bans,” he said.

Assemblywoman Liz Lyke said she finds the bags useful but would prefer to see them go away. “Once we get rid of something like this that is a nuisance, you find new solutions,” she said.

Public comment was fully in favor of banning the bags.

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