Saving History

SS Nenana restoration project added to draft capital plan, few other changes

Amanda Bohman Jan 24, 2020 Updated Jan 27, 2020

S.S. Nenana

Borough leaders dug into a list of public works projects on Thursday as they continue to vet projects for a pending Capital Improvement Program.

The assembly added a SS Nenana restoration project to the list and removed a career and technical education expansion project at middle and high schools.

Attempts to remove multiple other projects from consideration failed, but the assembly directed the mayor to separate the list of projects into two lists based on whether they deal with maintenance or with new construction.

An estimated 64 projects now go back to the borough administration to score and prioritize them. The vote on the list was 6-2. Funding will be discussed later.

Work on the draft Capital Improvement Plan persisted for hours.

“Part of that decision that we are making today is that value decision,” Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward told the assembly. “What is important to us as a community?”

The first order of business at the reconvened assembly meeting was to decide what to do about the Nenana.

The historic vessel at Pioneer Park is one of three National Historic Landmarks in Fairbanks and is sliding into disrepair.

Ward had recommended preserving portions of the vessel, but said he changed his mind after hearing and reading comments from people who want the entire vessel restored.

The Riverboat Nenana is important to people, Ward said. The assembly agreed, removed projects salvaging portions of the Nenana and voted 7-1 to add a restoration project to the draft capital projects list.

After voting on the Nenana, the assembly talked about whether to separate the projects into two lists. Assemblyman Jimi Cash moved to separate maintenance from new construction projects.

Assemblyman Aaron Lojewski agreed. He added that building new facilities at a time when current facilities are behind on maintenance is unrealistic.

“It just feels like we are living in a fantasy land,” Lojewski said.

The assembly approved Cash’s amendment in a 5-3 vote.

Cash and Lojewski attempted to remove multiple projects from consideration but the assembly voted to keep them. Those projects include a new animal shelter; repairs and an addition at the downtown borough administrative center; a remodel at the Noel Wien Public Library; an expansion of the North Pole Branch Library; Carlson Center remodel and expansion; construction of a new parks maintenance shop; an indoor athletics complex; school projects; parks projects; and projects for improving recreation areas and trails.

The assembly worked from a list of 66 projects involving new restrooms, roofs, trailheads, playground equipment, furniture, lighting, parking lots and buildings.

Projects that have drawn spoken and written support include renovating the Nenana, improving ice rinks, an indoor sports complex, upgrading the Noel Wien Public Library, remodeling a skateboarding park and improving trails.

Leaders are also being encouraged to focus capital improvement efforts on maintenance rather than new construction, multiple assembly members said.

Ward hopes to bring the scored projects back before the assembly in March, he said.

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

Saving History

Giving Tuesday

This #GivingTuesday we’re raising money for Friends of SS Nenana through North Star Community Foundation and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. And on GivingTuesday Dec 3, Facebook will match a total of $7 million in donations first come, first served. Thank you for your support. I’ve included information about North Star Community Foundation below.

The North Star Community Foundation (NSCF) improves the quality of life for Fairbanks North Star Borough and interior region through philanthropy, community development, and public service.

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Saving History

Bringing the SS Nenana into the park 1965

The year is 1965; this is an 8-millimeter film made by Jules Wright who was helping to bring the SS Nenana into the then Centennial Park for the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from the Russians which was coming in 1967. It was floated down from its location on the Chena River into the park through a channel that was dug out for its entry. The narration is done by Jules Wright himself.