Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Assembly approves razing gym, school


September 29, 2011

The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday turned down an eleventh-hour request to save the elementary school and gym, voting 5-0 for demolition.

"Nothing has been rushed, and it’s been a public process over and over and over again," said member Scott Rossman.

The assembly awarded Southeast Roadbuilders a contract up to $167,475 for the demolition to be completed this year. Company president Roger Schnabel said Wednesday he likely wouldn’t start demolishing the building for at least two weeks.

Erwin Hertz, Joe Poor and Jack Wenner spoke in favor of postponing a decision on scrapping the building, which has been proposed to house a community recreation center.

"As much as I would like to see a rec center here, I’m starting to wonder if this (building) is holding us back from doing that," said assemblyman Daymond Hoffman.

Poor said he would like the property developed into a "multi-purpose, vocational education center."

"If you proceed, you will have destroyed this concept forever, as Haines has no other building which meets the project requirements," he said. "I seriously thought about submitting an offer to purchase this building, with a long-term lease on the land, which would save our community about $167,000 in demolition costs."

Poor said he wanted to complete a "comprehensive" business plan before making an offer.

Assembly candidate Karen Hess told the assembly that Poor’s words changed her opinion about the building’s potential.

"I’ve been in favor of demolishing the school," she said. "I think it needs to go, but I’m also kind of compelled to ask that maybe you wait and see if something arises from a business plan or somebody who may come up with an idea in town."

A two-page memo from MRV Architects of Juneau dated Sept. 16 said transforming the building into a recreation and office center would "require a comprehensive renovation" and "the physical spaces of the existing project are not well-suited for the desired uses."

A 2010 report by MRV estimated renovations would cost $3.3 million, "roughly 40 percent of the cost of comparable new construction."

One shortcoming is the gymnasium is too narrow for regulation basketball games.

Assemblyman Jerry Lapp said he was open to a delay. "I’m not opposed to waiting four months to tear it down and see what the user groups want to come up with, but I’m not in favor of the borough putting any money into it."

Member Steve Vick said proposals for the building were "a little too late." He suggested saving only the gym, but that garnered no support from the other assembly members.

"The first thing we’re going to build when we re-build there is the gym," he said.

Assembly members said they would like to encourage more use of the Chilkat Center, particularly the basement, for recreation and community events.

Member Joanne Waterman said the Chilkat Center was more of a priority than the old elementary for upgrades, because "I just don’t see at this time how we can do both."

"I feel that the Chilkat Center is more of an integral and viable part of the community at this point, in what it serves and what it does," she said. "We know it needs a lot of work, and I think the community supports work going into that building."