FAIRBANKS (AP) The North Slope Borough is spending more than $300,000 per building to bring modern plumbing to the village of Kaktovik in northeast Alaska.
Lifelong Kaktovik resident Fenton Rexford said the change is welcome and overdue for the village of about 300 people inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Kaktovik is the last of seven villages to get water and sewer services in a borough that's flush with oil industry money but without a flush toilet in every home.
Installing the water and sewer systems at all seven villages will cost about $400 million by the time the Kaktovik work is finished, said Curt Thomas, North Slope program manager for the capital improvement project management department.
About $385 million of that money came through the borough, primarily from general bond sales, Thomas said. Much of the remaining $15 million was from grants, mainly through the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The work in Kaktovik represents the borough's last major infrastructure project for the foreseeable future, said Dennis Packer, North Slope chief administrative officer.
''These sewer and water projects keep in mind we build them for the future,'' he said.
Nuiqsut and Atqasuk were the most recent villages to receive the water and sewer services. Atqasuk resident and plant manager for the local school, Marty Beshears, said the plumbing has been a blessing.
Water quality is 200 to 300 percent better, he said, and it has made maintenance at the school much easier because the borough doesn't have to stop by to drop off water and pick up sewage.
''It's like being in the big city,'' Beshears said.
Planning for the project began in the early 1990s, Thomas said.
Borough residents voted in favor of the system and in about 1995 construction began in the first villages, Wainwright and Anaktuvuk Pass. The Kaktovik portion of the water and sewer work will cost about $41.5 million.
With 125 to 130 units, or buildings, to hook up to the network, that means the borough is spending between $319,000 and $332,000 per hookup in the village. Contractors estimated there will only be about 115 hookups, which would push the per-building cost even higher.
Kaktovik Mayor Lon Sonsalla said the governor vetoed $1 million of state funding for the village's water project this year. Sonsalla said he isn't sure how the borough will make up for that funding.
''It is expensive when you consider the amount of people here, but it was time.'' Sonsalla said.
The Kaktovik project includes burying pipe in permafrost and building water and wastewater treatment plants and a vacuum station building. The latter is necessary because the sewage system is vacuum-based rather than the gravity-based systems in most communities.
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