- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A historic well north of Fairbanks will remain open to the public, as its sale has been put on hold pending a maintenance agreement that would keep it under state ownership but not at state expense.

A grassroots group called Friends of Fox Springs is working to raise the funds necessary to pay for operating and maintaining the well, which is a former artisan spring located about 10 miles north of Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/2ngX2Lm).

“We have organized a serious and dedicated citizens’ group whose members have extensive fundraising experience,” Patrice Lee, head of the group, wrote in a letter to Mark Luiken, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The fate of the public well has been in question since 2015 when the Alaska Department of Transportation announced it couldn’t afford to operate it and looked into selling the property.

A public meeting after the announcement drew vocal opposition from people who wanted to keep the well open. The DOT has received hundreds of pages of public comment on the issue.

Government agencies including the Fairbanks North Star Borough declined to offer to take over the well. The property was later offered to Patrick Kohl, who owns neighboring property.

Kohl has said he preferred that the state continued to own the property.

Friends of Fox Springs has been pushing for the state to maintain the well, where the public can fill up for free.

“Selling Fox Spring without making arrangements to operate and maintain it will have the same effect as denying the public the right to use this public resource,” the group said in a Dec. 9 letter to Luiken.

The group has proposed paying for operation and maintenance of the well through user fees, donations, grants, partnerships and fundraising.

Luiken responded Feb. 8 and asked for a detailed plan on funding as well as a plan for closing the well if fundraising is unsuccessful.

Friends of Fox Springs responded on March 6, pledging to pay for routine annual operations and maintenance costs at the well.

“Also, we can periodically set aside additional funds for unexpected but necessary repairs and for pre-planned and needed capital improvements,” according to the letter signed by Lee.

Lee said fundraisers are being planned and will be announced at a later date.

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

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