Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has until Friday to follow through on a deal to purchase a former Alaska club building in Midtown – a deal struck by former interim mayor Austin Quinn -Davidson to create more shelter beds for the homeless before winter.
But the Bronson administration says the new mayor is unlikely to make the deal with the Alaska Club as previously planned.
“We are not inclined at the moment to move forward with the Alaska Club,” Craig Campbell, whom Bronson has chosen as his chief of staff, told members of the assembly at a meeting of the committee on housing and homelessness on Tuesday. “But we haven’t said ‘no’ yet. We want to evaluate this a bit more against what we offer with our solution.
Quinn-Davidson announced in May that the city has entered into a contract to purchase $ 5.436 million for the former Alaska Club building on Tudor Road in Midtown, which it plans to turn into an emergency shelter. with 125 beds and a resource center for the homeless. But the acting mayor left it to the newly elected Bronson, who took office on July 1, to follow through with the plan. It has a closing deadline of July 9.
At Tuesday’s meeting, members of the Bronson administration said they would ask for around $ 15.3 million to purchase and build their own proposed shelter, a single large-scale homeless shelter and a sailing to East Anchorage for about 400 people, with a capacity of up to 1,000. Additional costs, such as the cost of paying a supplier to run the shelter, are still being determined, they said.
City officials say they must increase the capacity of Anchorage’s homeless shelters as they face another looming deadline to dismantle the current mass shelter of 400 people in Sullivan Arena by the end of September.
Bronson in an interview on Tuesday said that while his administration went so far as to buy the former Alaskan club, he didn’t see it as an option for a safe haven.
Still, he said he was open to creating more homeless services and treatment in the Midtown neighborhood.
“We’re not looking for a safe haven where people can come and go like they do at the Sullivan Arena,” Bronson said. “… Over time, if we can use something in Midtown who offers therapy and that people receive ongoing therapy full time? Yes it’s good.”
Until the deadline, some assembly members, community leaders and members of the public express concern that Bronson’s proposed project will not be completed on time and that the Alaska Club may provide a plan. secondary viable in the meantime.
Others have questioned why the administration is not pursuing the two proposals as options – buying the Alaska club building and downsizing the East Anchorage shelter project.
Renovations on the old Alaska Club building could be completed between Oct. 16 and Oct. 30, if they get started before the July 9 deadline, according to a June 24 email from the CEO of the Alaskan Club. ‘Alaska Club, Robert Brewster, to city officials.
“This project is ready to go with all design work completed, vendors selected and bids received,” Brewster wrote.
Still, Bronson and his administration say their proposal would be a quicker fix.
“It’s actually faster to build than to renovate,” said Dr John Morris, Bronson’s homeless coordinator, in an interview Tuesday.
“Even if we were to start in a week, we would still be able to build the structure faster, at a greater capacity and at a lower cost for the size,” he said, referring to the date of end scheduled for mid-October. for the Alaska Club building.
Bronson said his proposal could be expanded quickly as more people need shelter during the winter.
“People are going to freeze. It’s that simple, ”he said.
Up to 800 people may need emergency shelter each day during the winter, he said.
“It’s a moral imperative. We have to manage this. And we are really looking for the support of the Assembly to go with us and do it with us, ”said Bronson.
Morris told the assembly on Tuesday that the administration would charge around $ 15.3 million to purchase and build the proposed shelter, which would be a dome-shaped fabric tent structure likely from Sprung Structures.
That includes $ 5.3 million to manufacture and ship the structure, plus about $ 10 million for construction, Morris said.
The administration proposes that the money come from a project to remove dead trees killed by spruce beetles, the inventory of the city’s maintenance and operations fleet and the balance of the fund. general of the city.
This fund still contains millions of unspent federal relief money from the CARES Act that the city approved last summer for the purchase of three buildings for homeless people and treatment services, including the former Alaska Club. None have yet been purchased.
To erect the structure at the proposed location on Tudor and Elmore Roads, the city would have to relocate the Anchorage Police Department’s secure storage lot, which houses many evidence vehicles in pending cases. This would mean move more than 500 vehicles to a new facility.
Anchorage Police Chief Ken McCoy sent Assembly members an unofficial estimate of $ 4 million to accomplish this task, based on ODA’s experience in construction and equipment of its current facilities, he wrote in an email Monday.
Morris told the assembly on Tuesday that he believed it would be “a fraction of that cost” to move the vehicles, and that that cost is included in the $ 10 million construction estimate.
The Bronson administration intends to ask the Assembly for money at its next meeting on July 13, Campbell said on Tuesday.
Still, many details of the proposal remain unanswered, such as who would run the shelter, what exactly services would be provided, how the city would pay for them, and how much it would cost.
“I think we got more answers, but we still need more details,” said Assembly Member Meg Zaletel, who chairs the Housing and Homelessness Committee, after Tuesday’s meeting. .
“I hope that as we continue to explore this plan, we don’t take away the Club Alaska option, because it’s something that is being prepared,” she said.
It may not fully meet the city’s needs, but it will “take us a long way” in addition to other Anchorage shelter options, Zaletel said.
“But that Plan B question today was really what the other option is?” she said. “We have to have a plan B if we don’t go ahead, because we have an obligation to provide shelter. “
Morris told the Assembly that many of these questions could not be answered without first issuing a request for proposal from social service providers who may be interested in running the proposed shelter.
He said he expects running the shelter to cost less than about $ 1.6 million per month, the amount currently spent between the existing mass-care facility and non-shelter programs. collectives.
“I would expect it to be around $ 12 million a year,” he said. “But I don’t have good data to back that up because we haven’t done any RFP or tendering process for the services.”