Proposal to continue construction of homeless Navigation Center shot down

Proposal to continue construction of homeless Navigation Center shot down
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 10:30 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Construction of a facility that would house homeless residents of Anchorage was effectively stopped Tuesday night after members of the Anchorage Assembly voted to discontinue funding of the project.

It is unclear, however, whether or not this is the end of the project as a whole.

Funding to continue construction failed to pass by a vote of 9-3, with Assembly members Randy Sulte, Jamie Allard, and Kevin Cross standing as the only ones that voted in favor to keep the proposal to be deliberated in the future.

Mayor Dave Bronson’s Chief of Staff Adam Trombley said at the meeting that the Assembly approved of a $6.2 million plan for construction of the facility on May 10, 2022.

“The nav center is only one spoke of the larger hub in our response to the homelessness, but it’s a vital piece of that plan,” Trombley said. “We know that across the country navigation centers have served important roles as welcoming and safe places for people experiencing homelessness people to gather.”

Ultimately, after long deliberation and many arguments throughout the evening, the proposal for a contract bid for the navigation center failed, meaning the construction of the navigation center will not be moving forward.

Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance later explained the process that the Bronson administration took to begin construction, saying that the Assembly has not retracted funding for the Navigation Center project, which she said funding has been set aside for to the tune of $9 million.

“This $4.9 million contract amendment for construction requires Assembly approval before it can be awarded,” LaFrance said. “Last month the administration informed the assembly that it gave the contractor the green light to start construction, even though Assembly approval had not been given, or even requested, which is in violation of municipal code. At that point, the administration halted the project.”

The deliberation leading up to the vote found some of the Assembly and the mayor’s administration in disagreement.

“It seems like there’s still fundamental questions unanswered,” Assembly member Meg Zalatel said. “Particularly about how this structure is going to meet code for purposes of habitability, and I find this issue juxtaposed against the Golden Lion issue of a used determination for a built structure being terribly complex apparently, that that has to be delayed and we have to work with all due diligence in that process, but here it’s “go ahead and let move forward,’ yet we don’t have these fundamental issues resolved.”

“We’ve been putting up the barriers, we have the authority, we are the super majority of the city and we run it into the ground,” Allard said. “Ms. Zalatel, I don’t know of a human who can get on a hamster wheel and get off, I don’t know of that, I know hamsters know how to get on and off, and that sounds like a ‘you’ problem and not an administration problem.”

The Assembly also indicated that there are concerns regarding potential legal action to get the contractor, Roger Hickel Contracting, paid for the work it has already done.

“At this turn of events, when we have money that’s been spent, a threat of litigation, a settlement that’s likely to come, we’re being asked to bless this grasp, this taking of Assembly legislation authority, and I don’t have it in me at this point,” Vice Chair Chris Constant said.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect Cross, Allard and Sulte were those who voted in favor of funding.