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


Main Street group seeks official status


The Downtown Revitalization Committee will seek to become a recognized advisory group to the Haines Borough.

The loose organization of citizens and downtown business and property owners voted for the change in status at a meeting attended by about 10 people Monday night.

Main Street coffeehouse owner Lenise Henderson Fontenot, who serves as volunteer chair of the committee, pushed for the change, saying she thought it would add weight to the group’s recommendations.

“In the past, people chose not to listen to us. I don’t want to come up with a plan that people won’t listen to. I prefer to put my time into something that’s going to go somewhere,” Henderson-Fontenot said. “Whatever avenue we need to do to get our opinion heard, I’m interested in doing.”

The downtown committee was largely dormant last winter.

It formed in January 2011, when borough manager Mark Earnest appointed Henderson to lead a group with a charge of implementing recommendations of the borough’s $40,000 downtown plan, finalized in 2010.

The downtown plan’s eight-point recommendations included securing part-time staff, but the group didn’t pursue that option.

Group membership has been open to all comers. Besides advocating for aesthetic improvements and infrastructure like more trash cans on Main Street, the group has been pushing for a “green space” near the old school site near Third and Main.

Henderson said if becoming a borough advisory group resulted only in the creation of a Main Street green space, the switch would be worth it.

If closer affiliation with the borough doesn’t work, the group could then look at non-profit status or some other form, Henderson-Fontenot said.

Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott said recently she welcomed the idea of the group serving in an advisory capacity, but said the group would have to make the initiative for the change.

Member Brenda Jones opposed the change in status.

“I believe a group of merchant advocates for the downtown area has the potential to be more effective than part of the local government,” Jones said after the meeting. “I’m concerned with the group getting weighted down with the bureaucracy and involved in politics instead of self-advocacy. I think self-advocacy is very powerful.”

Jones said the group has to be able to work with the local government. “It’s a matter of meeting the needs of the community while emphasizing that the needs of downtown can’t be forgotten.”

Jones said she was afraid borough leaders wouldn’t be as attentive to an advisory subcommittee as it would be to an independent group. “As part of government, (borough leaders) can either listen to us or not.”