Bryce Ward

Bryce Ward

The borough mayor wants to postpone the vote on a $125 million 10-year plan for public works projects.

The Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, has been in the works since the middle of last year and was set to be finalized Thursday, but now the borough is operating under emergency conditions due to the coronavirus outbreak in Fairbanks.

Meetings are being held under unusual conditions due to social distancing with assembly members casting votes over the phone and testimony being taken telephonically.

Borough Mayor Bryce Ward said he wants to make sure that the public works plan that is adopted is something the community can support. Assembly leaders are sympathetic to the mayor’s thinking.

Presiding Officer Matt Cooper said he would defer to Ward but doesn’t want to set aside the plan for too long.

“I asked the mayor what makes the most sense — going forward now or waiting — in light of the circumstances and available resources,” Cooper said in a text message. “I will defer to him on when he wants the assembly to act on the CIP, but (I) strongly believe the CIP is something we need to move forward with soon to address the borough capital and deferred maintenance needs.”

The Capital Improvement Plan is borough leaders’ solution to a backlog of deferred maintenance at public buildings. The prioritized list of projects involves playgrounds, ballfields, public restrooms and buildings, including the animal shelter, the Noel Wien Public Library and the Carlson Center, to name a few.

The first project on the list is a renovation of the John Weaver Memorial Skatepark. Repairs of the Riverboat Nenana are also proposed.

Ward wants to fund the projects with $11 million a year from the borough general fund.

Leah Berman Williams, assembly finance committee chairwoman, said she is leaning toward delay but isn’t sure if it’s feasible.

“I want to make sure there is adequate opportunity for public testimony and for a robust discussion in the assembly, and like many folks, dealing with the emergency situation is taking first priority,” she said in a text message. “However, we still need to continue the budget process for the borough, and the Capital Improvement Plan is a required part of the borough budget.”

The draft 2021 borough budget is scheduled to be introduced to the assembly on April 2.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.