State officials say senator is holding up funds

Posted: Friday, April 27, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- An Anchorage senator is holding millions of dollars in Fairbanks airport projects hostage over a completely unrelated issue, state transportation officials charge.

A bonding bill authorizing this summer's airline-funded airport projects for Anchorage and Fairbanks remains in the Senate Transportation Committee with less than two weeks before lawmakers will head home.

State officials say that Sen. John Cowdery, an Anchorage Republican who chairs the committee, is refusing to move the bill because he opposes a noncompetitive hiring process the state uses for some rural projects.

But Cowdery said his true reason for holding DOT's bill stems from the multimillion dollar problems that have plagued the Anchorage terminal construction project. ''They've got to prove to us that they're capable,'' he said.

Cowdery noted that he is not the only senator angered over the Anchorage terminal problems, which are the subject of an ongoing legislative audit.

Fairbanks senators, however, fully expect the airport work to be authorized before the end of the legislation session.

''I think I'm relatively confident in saying we're going to hear (the bill) and see what we can do to move these little puppies along and get them done,'' said Sen. Gary Wilken, a Fairbanks Republican who serves on the Cowdery-led transportation committee. ''Because it's a significant amount of money.''

This year's airport work in Anchorage would be funded with $53 million worth of the bonds, DOT said. About $1.6 million would go to the Fairbanks airport.

That $1.6 million is needed to fund or add the required matching money in order to launch about $6.5 million in projects slated for this summer at the Fairbanks International Airport, according to DOT.


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