Interior mayors head to D.C. in search of funds

Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Three Interior mayors are teaming up to take on Washington.

The mayors of Fairbanks, North Pole and the Fairbanks North Star Borough are headed to Washington, D.C. next week to meet with the state's congressional delegation. They are seeking millions of dollars in federal funding for Interior capital projects.

''I think we stand a better chance of having projects funded with having this direct contact,'' said North Pole Mayor Jeff Jacobson.

In addition to Jacobson borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles and Fairbanks city Mayor Steve Thompson will be making the trek to the nation's capital.

Boyles said the trio will meet with Sen. Ted Stevens, Rep. Don Young and both men's staffs, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski's staff and perhaps with Murkowski herself.

The mayors also plan to meet with representatives of various federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department about specific issues.

Though the mayors plan to present a united front, each brings a specific agenda.

Boyles said her focus would be asking for more than $20 million in federal money to help fund the borough's road service areas. She said the borough has never asked for federal money in that area before but that declining state contributions to the service areas necessitated the request. She said she hoped Young's position as chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure would give him the clout to send funds the borough's way.

''Rep. Don Young is in a very influential position, we're going to take advantage of it,'' she said. Boyles said she would also look for money for projects to improve borough air quality and access to Fort Wainwright, and to fund research by the University of Alaska Fairbanks on the feasibility of extending the Alaska Railroad into Canada.

Thompson will be staying longer than the other mayors in order to attend a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He said his focus would be capital projects and that he will go bearing a 17-item list of proposals to pitch to the delegation for federal funding.

Among the ideas are $15 million to aid in the construction of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in downtown Fairbanks; $275,000 to replace 10 police cars; $1 million to continue renovating City Hall; and $4.5 million to maintain and expand the J.P. Jones Community Development Center in South Fairbanks.

He also wants $13.5 million to turn the Fairbanks Regional Fire Training Center into a regional or statewide anti-terrorism response training center.

Jacobson said funding requests are also a priority of his trip and his idea list runs to 22 items. He said he sees the focus of the journey as relaying information not to Stevens, Murkowski and Young, but to their staffers.

''We want to of course have our leaders involved, but we realize a key to this is having the staff members remember what they are, so they can work on them also,'' he said.

Jacobson's biggest request is an extension of the Alaska Railroad to Fort Greely, though the project doesn't have a dollar estimate attached.

His biggest request with a price tag on it is $142 million to realign the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to North Pole to improve the train's efficiency and safety.

Among Jacobson's other requests are $4 million to create a multipurpose community center; $8 million to extend North Pole's water and sewer system; $6.5 million to acquire the Bradley Sky Ranch and begin turning it into a municipal airport; $200,000 for a skateboard and BMX park; $35,000 to hire a consultant to help North Pole better offer visitors a year-round Christmas experience; and $1 million to pay for a federally mandated equipment upgrade at KJNP radio.

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