Officials with Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration approved a contractor to spend millions on building an emergency shelter, without getting approval from the Assembly.
During an Oct. 7 work session, Public Works Director Lance Wilber acknowledged the mistake. He said the city had given Roger Hickel Contracting the go-ahead to spend $4.9 million on the construction of a shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage.
“The error on our part was that, in the traditional construction contracting process, we should have gone to the Assembly initially, and asked to amend the Hickel contract,” Wilber said.
Anchorage municipal code states that any city contract of more than $50,000 has to be approved by the Assembly. The Assembly was initially supposed to vote on the contract in September, but pushed the vote to Oct. 25 after expressing concerns over rising costs. The cost estimate for the project has increased from just under $12 million to over $15 million, according to city officials at the work session.
The East Anchorage shelter has been the cornerstone of the Bronson administration’s response to homelessness since the mayor took office last year. In August, in response to a lack of a timely winter sheltering plan from the mayor, the Assembly convened a task force to come up with suggestions, and ended up approving a plan that involved reopening the Sullivan Arena shelter, and expanding housing options for homeless people.
Assembly members expressed concerns over potential lawsuits from Hickel and any subcontractors that have been working on the navigation center if they don’t approve the funding. Assembly vice-chair Chris Constant requested a list of any potential subcontractors that could be affected.
“We were told, if funds aren’t made available with the work that’s been done, we could get sued,” Constant said. “So I’m definitely interested in seeing a comprehensive list of who the (subcontractors) are.”
Officials with the mayor’s office and the municipal Department of Law declined to respond to questions about the funding or potential lawsuits, stating, ”the Municipality does not comment on matters we believe may result in litigation.“
This story has been updated to reflect the mayor’s administration and legal deparment declined to answer questions.