Fairbanks borough assembly considers whether to ask state for woodstove program funding


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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly this week will consider whether to ask the state for funding to continue a popular woodstove exchange program.

The assembly is set to consider on Thursday a resolution requesting $1 million from the state, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper (http://is.gd/iH23Ku) reported. The funding would match $1 million recently put into the program by the assembly to replace old wood stoves with cleaner-running devices in the borough, which has chronically poor wintertime air quality.

Authors of the resolution include assembly member John Davies, who said the program was "running on fumes" in December. That prompted the $1 million infusion from the assembly.

Another $1 million from the state would represent nearly another season of woodstove exchanges, according to Davies. State funding could be a difficult task, however, with the state facing a $3.5 billion budget gap.

Such a request won't be easy, according to Fairbanks Democratic state Rep. David Guttenberg, a member of the House Finance Committee. But he said the woodstove exchange program meets with the budget goals of this year.

"Most of the things in the budget are things that are necessary, matching grants for federal dollars, things we're trying to finish and other essentials. The woodstove change-out program might be necessary to deal with air quality," Guttenberg said. "I know it's a hard sell, but the woodstove change-out is a big part of the air-quality situation."

Davies, a former state House member, said the exchange program is a worthy effort.

"It's about as big of a challenge as we've ever had in the environment down there, in terms of finding money," he said. "We're still going to have a pretty substantial budget and it's a matter of priorities. This is still in the nature of a health emergency."

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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