Instead of climbing a narrow, dimly lit wooden staircase to access the current Chilkoot Indian Association offices, tribal members will have ground-floor access to services once construction of the new community service center is complete.
The center, situated on Third Avenue across from the library, is a single-floor, 5,250-square-foot, “L”-shaped structure that will house seven offices, a meeting room, and other miscellaneous space to be heated by a wood pellet boiler.
The single-floor aspect is important, said tribal administrator Dave Berry, because the current second-story headquarters on Main Street is accessible only by a relatively precarious stairway.
“The majority of the membership living in this valley is over 45 years old. A good portion of them are over 60 and we want to be able to provide services on a ground level office so they don’t have to take those stairs,” Berry said.
Tribal council member Marilyn Wilson said elders “would be more active in giving us more information and advice if they could get up there.” Wilson said she hopes the easier accessibility will encourage older members to get involved.
The center will provide housing, social, and health services to tribal members. It will also house a Tlingit and Haida social services office. There is no extra space to be rented as of right now, Berry said, but he doesn’t discount the possibility for the future.
Though the wheels for a community service center have been in motion since the late 1990s, funding has been a major barrier for getting the project off the ground.
On July 1, CIA received $1.3 million from the state, triggering construction. The remainder of the $1.97 million price tag will be paid by the tribe, Berry said.
Berry said there has been little controversy over the project, except for when CIA cut down 40 second-growth spruce trees on the lot, which prompted a barrage of visits and phone calls from outraged citizens. The felled trees, however, were put to good use.
“We have a crew of people that cuts up wood to give to our elders. And they cut all those trees up, split them, and delivered them to our elders. So they didn’t go to waste. They’re providing heat for our people this wintertime,” Berry said.
The building currently is in the first phase of construction, and the floor system is being installed this week. Work will continue through winter.
Berry said he he’s expecting completion by October.