House bill would finance API construction

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A measure that would finance construction of a new Alaska Psychiatric Institute passed the House on Monday.

The bill authorizes the state to sell $16 million in bonds that would be combined with money from several other sources to pay for the $41.7 million facility.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Norm Rokeberg, said the project would replace a hospital that was built in 1962. The Department of Defense built the current API as a backup medical-surgical hospital. It was not designed for use as a psychiatric hospital.

''The building is too big for its purposes,'' Rokeberg said. ''It's very inefficient and difficult to operate.''

It also contains asbestos and was not designed to withstand a strong earthquake, he said.

Several sources of funding would pay for the new building, said Rep. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage.

The Legislature had already set aside $19.5 million for the project in the early 1990s. The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority will pitch in $3 million and the state will raise $16 million through a type of bond sale called certificates of participation. Also, interest earned on those funds while the project is being built should contribute about $3.5 million.

The state will spend about $1.6 million a year for the next 15 years repaying the bond debt, Mulder said.

The House approved the bill unanimously, but Rep. Mary Kapsner, D-Bethel, gave notice she may bring it up for reconsideration Tuesday. If the outcome doesn't change Tuesday, the measure will go to the Senate.

If the bill clears the Legislature, the new building could be finished in three years, said state Commissioner of Health and Social Services Karen Perdue.

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