Mayor Dan Sullivan on Thursday named engineering firm CH2MHill as the new manager for the beleaguered renovation of the Port of Anchorage.
The announcement came as a surprise to many on the Anchorage Assembly. Chairman Ernie Hall said he hadn't seen any specifics on the mayor's proposal, but agreed that the port should be a priority.
"Ninety percent of the goods in the state of Alaska pass through that port,” Hall said. “It’s a key part of the infrastructure of the state and we've got to finish this project."
Hall and other assembly members will have to approve the appointment of CH2MHill to helm the project before any work can be done. But first, Hall said he wants to make sure there's no conflict of interest in the deal.
The city has a pending lawsuit that alleges faulty port construction work was done by VECO, a company CH2MHill purchased after the work in question had been completed.
"If there was no litigation involved in this, there's other questions,” Hall said. “Why is this (firm) qualified to do this contract?'" he asked.
Other big questions remain for the city, like how the project will be funded. In December Mayor Sullivan sent his capital budget to Juneau, asking the legislature for $250 million for the port renovation. Senator Kevin Meyer said Thursday that it’s tall order for a project that’s years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.
"To ask the legislature for money right now is going to be difficult," Meyer said. "Primarily because we already have so many projects that are in the works."
Three main parties have a stake in the Port of Anchorage renovation. Beyond the Municipality of Anchorage, the state relies on the port as its major import facility. In addition, the federal government relies on the port for the military.
Meyer said it may take a creative effort from all three interested parties to come up with the cash needed to finish the project.