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

Survey: School, firehall top list for new buildings


Responses to a recent Haines Borough survey showed residents viewed fire, ambulance and police services, and K-12 education as most important to the community and also the most deserving of a new building.

The mail-in survey sent to local post office boxes was intended to gauge opinions and priorities of residents on the borough’s public facilities and services.

For one question, residents were given a list of 11 services and asked to rank which four should receive a new building if all of the services needed a new facility. Respondents ranked police, fire, and ambulance first, K-12 education second, senior services third, and cultural services fourth. Recreation services, visitor services, and museum brought up the rear at ninth, tenth, and eleventh, respectively.

When asked to allocate $10 between a list of 10 facilities, all theoretically in need of major repairs, a “brand new” recreational facility came in third behind the police, ambulance, and fire building and the Chilkat Center. The visitor center came in last.

Nearly one-fifth of those surveyed voiced a desire for a recreation center.

Other general results indicated strong support for remodeling or maintaining old buildings instead of constructing new ones, a desire for conservative and limited spending, and a high level of confidence that borough services are meeting the community’s needs.

However, those who felt the borough needed to provide more for the community listed 319 other ideas of how it could do so.

Some of the recurrent write-in suggestions included more trails and outdoor recreation, a downtown central park, a teen center, and more walking paths downtown.

Survey designer Lenise Henderson Fontenot presented the findings at an Oct. 24 meeting of the Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee. The two-page survey contained six questions asking residents to weigh in on topics like what services are most important to the community, how residents would allocate money to different services, and what new buildings they would construct first.

Of the 1,525 surveys sent out, 335 were returned by the Sept. 21 deadline.

The “needs assessment survey” is part of a larger objective to create a master plan to guide the operation and development of the borough’s facilities and services.

The Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee will weigh the needs assessment along with a technical assessment conducted by the Anchorage-based architectural firm McCool Carlson and Green. The technical assessment analyzes conditions of borough buildings, such as whether they are up to code, energy efficient, and handicap accessible.

Borough manager Mark Earnest emphasized the survey alone will not dictate how the master plan is generated.

“It’s information that is helpful as we move this process forward, but it doesn’t answer the questions. It doesn’t provide the path necessarily that the borough will take,” Earnest said.

Likewise, Henderson Fontenot said since this is the only portion of the project complete thus far, some people mistakenly believe these results will ultimately dictate what the borough does or doesn’t decide to build or repair.

“People get kind of panicked when they think it’s the end-all, but it’s just the beginning,” she said.

Jason Gamache, an architect and sustainability consultant with McCool Carlson and Green, visited Haines twice to work on the technical assessment and will return on Nov. 26 to present his findings to the Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee.

“We aren’t going to make any recommendations necessarily, but we are going to say this is what you have and here are some scenarios for moving forward,” Gamache said.

A third leg of the master plan creation involves investigating which projects could be most successfully funded. Ann Myren of Resources and Results Consulting LLC and Cecily Stern of Wordcraft Consulting are currently researching possible funding options and preparing grant applications.

Complete survey results are available on the borough website. via the Facilities Master Plan Development link. The Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee next meets on Monday, Nov. 26. 


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