December 15, 2011 |

Thomas: Put strings on center funds

State Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, this week said he would request $600,000 in legislative funding for the Chilkat Center, if the borough gives up the building.

He suggested the center return to ownership by Alaska Indian Arts of Haines.

"If this is just going to fix the roof or part of the roof, then fine, but I’m not going to put mega-millions in there when the community has bigger needs," Thomas said.

A 2008 condition survey by PND Engineers of Juneau priced roof repair and improvement at $4 million and the cost of complete building renovation at $11 million. But a "minimal approach" outlined by engineers for the borough last week would make the building "safe" and "dry" for $650,000.

The center’s board has been pushing for repairs to the building for years and recent heavy snow loads have added to borough concerns about chronic leaking due to ice dams on the roof.

At Tuesday’s borough assembly meeting, where Thomas’ offer was reported, assembly member Joanne Waterman took issue with the suggestion. "It can be discussed but, boy, conditions put upon grants in such ways … I just don’t like that," Waterman said.

Chilkat Center repair is not on the borough’s "wish list" to the Alaska Legislature for the coming session. Waterman said that’s because the borough has previously been unable to secure legislative funding.

The borough’s 2012 wish list includes as its top five priorities (in order): boat harbor improvements, Lutak Dock improvements, a community facility master plan, Barnett Drive water tank replacement, and municipal water treatment plant replacement.

Alaska Indian Arts transferred ownership of the center to the borough about 30 years ago, on the condition it be used for educational and performing arts activities.

Lee Heinmiller, Alaska Indian Arts president, said he thinks the Chilkat Center can survive without borough ownership.

"It may solve the problem of putting some money into the building, but the bottom line is they were supposed to be maintaining the building along the way," Heinmiller said.

The $650,000 job would replace cedar shakes with metal roofing and address insulation issues that cause ice dam formation. It would also replace roof assemblies on the high roof and low-slope roofs, replace plywood and correct roof trusses over the auditorium, stage and radio offices and replace rafters over the auditorium.

A government affairs and services committee meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 27 in assembly chambers will discuss Chilkat Center upgrades and the potential transfer of the building back to Alaska Indian Arts.