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Anchorage School District reports $22 million in quake repairs, with the biggest costs still to come

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: February 7
  • Published February 7

Daniel Unfreid, left, and Chris Ide, both with Cornerstone General Contractors, work on a seismic repair and upgrade to the East High pool ceiling on Jan. 4. The school was damaged during the Nov. 30 earthquake. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

JUNEAU — Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop told state lawmakers Thursday that the district has already invoiced or paid more than $22 million in repairs following the Nov. 30 Southcentral earthquake.

That figure doesn’t include the 15 most-damaged schools in the district, she said, meaning recovery costs are expected to increase significantly before the final bill comes due and are now likely to exceed the $25 million to $50 million range given in early December as an initial estimate.

The figures were released as part of a presentation Bishop gave to the Senate Education Committee.

Bishop said draft reports on reconstruction needs will be due to the district in February, with final reports expected in March.

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, asked if some damage is being concealed by winter conditions.

“Absolutely, senator, especially in parking lot damage and ground damage, as well as roofing damage,” Bishop said.

One example, Bishop said after the meeting, is Gruening Middle School, where subsurface conditions have caused the building to sink slightly with each significant aftershock. That school, along with Eagle River Elementary, has been closed through the 2019-20 school year.

In a separate presentation, Mike Brown, executive director of operations for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, told the education committee that repair costs in his district — which contains fewer schools than Anchorage but, he said, was generally subject to more severe shaking — have reached $1.8 million.

That figure does not include repairs to Houston Middle School, which has been deemed unsafe. Brown said the district should receive more information about damage to the school over the next month.

“At this point we do know Houston Middle damage is in the millions of dollars, with complete replacement a possibility,” Brown said.

Tim Edwards, chief risk officer for the University of Alaska, said over 60 university facilities were damaged, and the university has spent more than $4 million in repairs.

“We continue to do repairs and monitoring … and we’re also right now in the middle of the FEMA reimbursement process,” he said, indicating the bill could change.

“Currently, earthquake repairs are 90 percent complete. We have a few things left that we’re working on. Other than that, we should be at 100 percent here shortly,” Edwards said.

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