The Anchorage Assembly voted against the funding of Mayor Dave Bronson’s navigation center for the homeless, which was the hub of his plan to deal with the hundreds of homeless people in Anchorage. The amount requested was $4.9 million for a contract with Roger Hickel Contracting to begin work on the project, which has a total cost is $13.3 million for the project. The Assembly voted to take up the item in late October, which means the construction will not be done this year.
A navigation center is a type of one-stop-shop that includes some housing, but also referral services and social workers to get people who are living on the streets back into a productive life.
For a year and a half the Assembly has prevented the mayor from building the center, and with winter approaching, the Assembly has delayed it once again.
Assemblyman Felix Rivera said the city “needs to focus 100% on the immediate need in front of us.”
Rivera also said the Golden Lion Hotel must instead be utilized as intended by the previous mayor, who resigned in disgrace. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz wanted the hotel to be used for drug treatment.
The leftist Assembly members during the meeting expressed anger and disbelief that the State Department of Transportation has said it will likely claim the parking lot of the Golden Lion Hotel for the reconstruction of the intersection at the corner of 36th Avenue and New Seward Highway. Nevertheless, Rivera wanted a firm commitment from the mayor that he would put a drug treatment center at the Golden Lion. Neighbors in the area have objected to that plan.
Rivera also indicated that the money would be funneled to the Rasmuson Foundation, which would use it to purchase a building. Rivera said that the public would know what was going on in 45 days. The Assembly has given the Rasmuson Foundation $12 million with no specific deliverables.
Assemblyman Chris Constant was especially aggravated at the Transportation Department letter that described the need for eminent domain.
Rivera pointe out that the costs of the navigation center “have continued to balloon and the schedule continues to shift.” He said the Assembly needs more definitive answers to his questions “before we spend unknown millions of dollars.” Rivera also wanted to look at other sites for the navigation center. Currently, the mayor has chosen a site at Elmore and Tudor Road. Conservatives on the Assembly pointed out that the foot-dragging of the Assembly has been the reason why costs have climbed.
Lance Wilbur, the director of Public Works for Anchorage, said the Assembly has been briefed continuously on the project and that nothing about it should be a surprise to the appropriating body.