On Tuesday, the city manager’s office is meeting with members of Kawerak about a $3.2 million funding gap for Nome’s proposed Richard Foster Building.
The project, which is slated to be finished by 2016, is set to house the Carrie M. McLain Museum, Kegoayah Kozga Library, as well as a large space leased to Kawerak for a tribal museum, The Beringia Center.
Estimates for the project’s total construction cost are $19.2 million. But councilman Matt Culley says that a significant portion of that amount remains unfunded, even as materials are being barged up this season.
“Back in January, the Council was under the impression that the structure and all of the library and museum would be built under the current cost, and between now or then, that money didn’t come through. And somehow, somewhere—I don’t know where the miscommunication came from but all of the council was under pretty much the same impression—now we’re short money,” Culley said.
The Common Council voted in January to move forward with construction under the impression that $1.3 million in funding from the Rasmuson Foundation was still in the air, but very likely to come through. Those funds were set to finish and curate the interior of the Beringia Center. The January decision committed the city to finishing the building’s shell, along with the library and museum, but not the Beringia Center’s interior. The idea was that if outside funding couldn’t be found then the leased space would remain empty, to avoid tapping city savings.
What was unclear to common council members when they brought up the issue of funding at their June 10th meeting was how a gap of $1.3 million six months ago had ballooned to a $3 million dollar gap.
“I agree with Stan Anderson,” Culley said of how he plans to move ahead, “I’m not gonna spend an extra dime of the city’s money on this. If we just have a steel structure that’s in place that just turns out to be a neat little thing to remind everyone not to count their chickens before they’re hatched that’s what I’ll do, but I’m not going to spend any more of the city’s money.”
Amy Russell-Jamgochian, project director for the Beringia Center, says that in fact there is enough money to finance a shell for the building, as was outlined back in January. Kawerak put out a press release on Monday clarifying the funding situation. The city and Kawerak are partners in securing funds designated for the Beringia Center, and had together anticipated a $1.9 million grant from the state’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development to come through. Which, in a normal year, it would have. But, facing strained budgets across the state, the Legislature in Juneau left the grant unfunded at the end of their session.
That, in turn, makes it harder to pull in Rasmuson money, since the foundation tends to fund projects that have already raised a large share of their own costs.
The Nome Common Council is set to discuss plans for the Richard Foster Building at their meeting on Monday at 7pm.