The Fairbanks City Council approved a list of legislative priorities Monday night, making public the city’s intentions to advocate for certain items with the state government.
These include encouraging the Alaska Legislature to maintain contributions to the Public Employees' Retirement System, maintain the Community Assistance Program, help with PFAS cleanup, assist with boiler conversions, fund the Emergency Service Patrol, help fund a sexual assault response team and hear concerns about House Bill 79, which seeks to return the state to a defined-benefit retirement system for peace officers and firefighters.
Two items are listed as capital priorities in need of state funding: constructing a shooting range for law enforcement and replacing the city’s heating system.
The council unanimously approved the two lists.
On PFAS cleanup, the council reasoned that because state agencies contributed to contamination inside the city related to aqueous film-forming foam, which is associated with the harmful group of chemicals known as PFAS, the state should contribute funding to clean it up. The priority list states that the $9.4 million allocated to the Department of Environmental Conservation is “a good start” but that the state should provide additional funding and assistance to affected municipalities.
The Community Assistance Program, formerly the Community Revenue Sharing program, provides state funding to municipalities to help provide basic services. This funding has been reduced in the last several years. The city will request that the state continue funding the program at a minimum of $60 million annually.
The city will request that the state help fund the Emergency Services Patrol. The state previously provided a $250,000 grant, which was used to help fund the program from 2014 to 2017. The city is requesting an additional $300,000 for the program, which removes inebriated persons from the streets in the downtown region and relocates them to safer locations.
The city contributes funding to the ESP, as does the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Additionally, the program receives funding from donations, which are collected and managed by the Downtown Association, which also contributes tens of thousands of dollars.
The city also plans to make clear its concerns about HB 79, a bill that would affect the city by re-establishing defined retirement benefits for the city's police officers and firefighters. This would create a guaranteed pension program, rather than one similar to a 401(k), which according to the list, would create a liability for the city. The city would not support this legislation.
The city will also support maintaining the state’s 22% PERS contribution rate.
The city will request that the state help residents who wish to convert their boilers from fuel oil to natural gas. The list does not list a specific form of help or amount of funding but rather asks that the state assist in “finding creative solutions.” Suggestions include tax credits, low interest loans and loan guarantees.
Finally, the city will ask for additional statewide funding for SART, or the Sexual Assault Response Team, in the amount of $350,000.The city will request that $100,000 of this be earmarked for Fairbanks.
The signed resolution will be sent to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and to Interior legislators.
The Legislature reconvenes Jan. 21.
Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter: @FDNMcity.