The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly is moving forward with a repair and replace design for Houston Middle School. The school has been closed since the Nov. 30, 2018 earthquake — a magnitude 7.1 that caused serious damage to the building.

Staff within the Mat-Su school district support an option to repair the gym and administrative wing, as well as replace the two-story classroom area that took the biggest hit.

At the Assembly meeting Tuesday night, members voted 6-1 to approve that option to move forward into the design phase.

“Design of course is a time intensive and expensive process. It’s one of those things that has to be done before we break ground or demolition. I’m excited the assembly supported that,” said Assemblyman Dan Mayfield, who introduced the measure.

George McKee was the lone vote against the motion, saying he thought the borough should have a better idea of where the money was going to come from.

The project is expected to cost about $29 million. Superintendent Monica Goyette said about $15 million will come from insurance and several million will come from the Mat-Su Borough. Right now, there’s a funding gap of more than $7 million.

Mayfield said he knows Houston parents have been frustrated at the pace of the project.

Rick Taylor voiced his concerns during the public comment period.

“There are a few hundred voices that you don’t get to hear very often and that’s the voices of the students. And they’re waiting for the adults to do something right there,” he said. “It’s time to do so.”

The Assembly added the Houston project to its list of legislative priorities. Mayfield said he hopes the Valley’s delegation will fight for funding when session begins in Juneau.

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