Anchorage School District Weighing Cost of Earthquake Relief

January 16, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Negotiations between the Anchorage School District and the federal government over earthquake damage relief could result in the district turning down millions in funds, an official said.

The negotiations over money to repair damage caused by the state’s November 2018 earthquake could take months or years, the Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency would require the district to carry earthquake insurance if it accepts federal reimbursement for specific repairs, District Chief Operating Officer Tom Roth said.

“There are strings attached,” Roth said last week at a Chamber of Commerce event in Eagle River.

Categories of disaster reimbursement have different sets of federal requirements, Roth said.

Federal money is available for repairs and damage and debris cleanup in the immediate aftermath of a quake. For long-term repair work, FEMA requires the insurance coverage.

The school district believes it is eligible for about $6 million in the two categories for immediate work, but approximately $54 million for long-term repairs would come with conditions, he said.

“You take that money from the federal government, you incur an obligation to obtain and maintain earthquake insurance in perpetuity,” Roth said.

The district received quotes and believes a $10 million earthquake insurance policy would cost about $1.8 million per year for the life of the facilities, Roth said.

The district must weigh whether taking the federal money is worth the added expense of carrying the insurance.

The insurance requirement may prove too costly for taxpayers, school district Superintendent Deena Bishop said.

“It almost outprices itself,” she said.

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