September 22, 2011 |

Assembly to vote on old school demolition

Members of the Haines Borough Assembly are set to approve a bid for demolishing the remaining portion of the old elementary school at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Bids are due Monday, and the assembly is expected to vote on accepting the low bid Tuesday, said borough manager Mark Earnest.

The assembly in July moved to request bids for the demolition. At their Sept. 13 meeting, members again expressed support for tearing down the building by the end of the year.

"I think it’s time for that building to come down," said Brian Lemcke, borough director of public facilities. "…When the borough decided they needed a new school, the reason for that was the old school was worn out."

Some residents have proposed for the facility to house a community recreation center. Assembly member Joanne Waterman said she hasn’t "seen any concrete ideas or plans come forward" since the building was spared from demolition last fall.

Earnest said the next step for a community or recreation center would be a "request for qualifications" to help with planning a new facility.

"A consultant/contractor would put together a full package for the borough that would take the work that has been done … and then advance that to include feasibility, assessment. It would look at our other borough-owned facilities and try to find cost-savings from consolidation and elimination, perhaps, of some buildings from the inventory," he said.

Resident Joe Poor has suggested using the elementary as a vocational training center. Jack Wenner, a retired electrical engineer, also requested delaying the demolition.

"We can work something out to use the basketball court," Wenner told the assembly this month. He says the building could be re-opened for about $1.44 million.

A February 2010 report by MRV Architects of Juneau estimated a cost of $3.3 million "to retain and renovate portions of the facility for use as an indoor wellness/activity center and to provide general purpose space for flexible uses, including possible meeting rooms, exhibit or gallery space, and similar functions that would benefit Haines."

"In very general terms, the old school property can (be) renovated into a moderate-quality, serviceable facility for the Haines Borough for roughly 40 percent of the cost of comparable new construction," the report concluded. "Not all portions of the building would be new, but it would result in a very serviceable building for Haines."

MRV this year worked on a "programming" study to measure the future use of the remaining portion of the elementary. Earnest halted the study last month.

"From our perspective, I think that it’s terrific that you’re proceeding with planning for a new facility in that location," Corey Wall, the project manager for MRV, said in a phone interview. "A lot of the work that we did with the initial programming probably led to the conclusion that tearing down the existing building was a good step."

He said the study likely would have transitioned into an analysis of a new facility, following the initial report that "explored the limitations of the existing school and discovered that it wasn’t going to meet the community needs."

"That information is usable, however the project proceeds," Wall said. "I think you’ve got a very good first step towards a future facility, whoever does the planning process."