Public Safety Building could get new roof if federal money comes through

If Sen. Lisa Murkowski is successful in her request for a congressional appropriation for $2 million in federal grant money to help repair Wrangell’s Public Safety Building, the borough might be able to replace the roof and damaged siding next year.

Though the rot-damaged building needs a lot more work than just the roof and siding, Borough Manager Mason Villarma said the new plan is to start with a scaled-down project and add more repairs, rebuilds and equipment replacements later.

“We plan to trim down the scale of the project,” he said in an interview May 29. “For now, it’s about protecting the shell.”

A new engineer’s estimate for the roof and siding came in at $4 million, he said. If the federal money comes through, the borough would need to cover the other half of the cost before going to bid on the project.

Voters in 2022 rejected an $8.5 million bond issue for more extensive work to the building, which have been estimated at as much as $15 million to repair and rebuild everything that is wrong with the 40-year-old water-damaged wood structure.

The assembly last year approved a $53,605 contract with Juneau-based NorthWind Architects for a new report on the facility, including looking at priority repair needs.

The Wrangell building is one of more than 500 requests for federal money that Murkowski submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee last month for consideration in the federal budget year that starts Oct. 1. Those requests total about $2.5 billion.

“Believe me, we won’t get $2.5 billion,” Murkowski cautioned in an interview last month.

Besides for the unknown of which Alaska projects may win funding in federal budget bills, there is no guarantee that Congress will pass a budget before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, particularly in the months leading up to the election. Often, Congress extends agency funding past Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown but does not approve new spending until the next year.

Villarma reported on the $2 million funding request at the May 28 borough assembly meeting.

“Hopefully, we can make a promise to the public for that ugly, ugly building,” he said.


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