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

 
 

Lemcke: Bury power lines in town

 


Brian Lemcke, who resigned as the Haines Borough’s public facilities director last week, said the job is an important one.

Lemcke, a local bar owner who once worked as a contractor here, started in July 2011, replacing Brad Maynard. The position, which oversees projects and supervises the public works and water and sewer departments, was created about five years ago.

Lemcke said he hoped his tenure raised a level of awareness about borough facilities, roads and utilities.

“I think people are more in tune with the needs that we have and what you have to do to keep things going. I think there’s a willingness now to move ahead with improvements, or at least to admit we have problems with some of our facilities,” Lemcke said.

The borough is addressing years of deferred maintenance, he said. “You pay now or you pay later, is how it goes. The borough is going to have to raise money in troubled times to address some of these issues.”

“A big part of the facilities job is overall planning and a part of our problem now is we never did any (historically),” Lemcke said.

Too many projects weren’t engineered well, Lemcke said. “Engineers are well worth it. We’ve got things that nobody watched, and now we have problems. (Engineers) are important on bigger projects,” he said.

The job’s responsiblity is making sure the borough’s physical projects get done. “I feel we got things done and (the office) will continue to get things done. It’s important to keep things moving. Things like removing asbestos pipe. They’re not exotic projects, but they need to get done.”

While day-to-day projects can be consuming, his successor in the job will be involved in larger projects, including up to $20 million in harbor improvements and a $6 million replacement of the Port Chilkoot Dockn trestle, a job set to start one year from now.

Lemcke said the borough also should look toward burying electric lines around town. “From here on out, I’m hoping we can make that a big consideration, getting the telephone poles off the sidewalks and the wires underground. That’s something I hope they could do.”

Burial should be considered in advance of road resurfacing along Third Avenue between Old Haines Highway and Union Street, Lemcke said. The project, which includes adding sidewalks and curbs on both sides, has languished due to hitches in funding.

“If we’re going to go out to find more money to do Third Avenue, we may as well find money to (bury lines),” Lemcke said.

Carlos Jiminez has been hired as interim facilities director.

Lemcke was paid $80,000 annually. He is heading south to Sequim, Wash ., where he’ll be working with a contractor on small, residential jobs.

The public facilities department includes two facility maintenance technicians who earn $51,667 and $46,051 respectively.

Mayor Stephanie Scott and assembly members praised Lemcke at Tuesday’s meeting, saying his local knowledge, cool demeanor and work ethic were critical to many borough projects.