December 13, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 50

Architects rate condition of borough buildings

The Haines public safety building is in bad shape. In fact, Anchorage-based architect Jason Gamache said he hasn’t seen anything quite like it in the rest of the state.

Gamache, along with McCool Carlson and Green associate Jason Weir, delivered a presentation recently at Haines High School outlining the results of their Haines 2015 facility planning report. The report contained technical assessments of borough buildings as well as ratings by borough workers on suitability of buildings to functions they house.

The public safety building garnered an overall “poor” appraisal ranking from users, who assessed buildings in six categories ranging from location to safety. It also received a “poor” condition assessment.

“I don’t mean this to be spiteful, but I don’t think I’ve seen any public safety buildings anywhere else in the state that are in quite this condition,” Gamache said.

Undersized parking bay doors, a lack of occupancy separation between the garage and office, major rot issues, a substandard jail and prisoner processing areas and a slew of other problems make the public safety building a pretty glaring priority, Gamache said.

“If I were personally to move a project forward on a priority list, this would probably be one of them,” he said.

The report is part of a larger project by the borough to develop a facilities master plan, which will help the borough make decisions about its public facilities.

McCool Carlson and Green also looked at the human resources building, Sheldon Museum, Chilkat Center, visitor center, pool, and borough administration building. In terms of the condition assessment, they rated the public safety and human resources buildings “poor,” the administration building “good,” and the others, “fair.”

Gamache combined all of McCool Carlson and Green’s information – including the condition assessment, appraisal rank, energy use index (which gauges efficiency) – with results from Lenise Henderson Fontenot’s needs assessment survey – including how the public ranked program and building importance – to come up with a “master” score, or capital improvement rank  (CIP).

The CIP rank, according to Gamache, attempts to consider the subjective, practical, and technical facets of the building to determine where it should rank on a hypothetical priority list.

From highest to lowest priority, the buildings ranked: public safety, the Chilkat Center, administration and pool (tied), human resources, the visitor center, and the museum.

Gamache said the alignment between the ultimate CIP ranking and some of the rankings from Henderson Fontenot’s public survey were extremely close, demonstrating that Haines residents understand their community facilities very well.

Gamache also provided figures for how much money the borough would save each year if the buildings were either remodeled or rebuilt with a high-performance, energy-efficient design. For example, the public safety building would save over $19,000 annually, the pool over $51,000, and the Chilkat Center just under $39,000.

“I walked away thinking that there may be changes that we can’t afford not to make. If you look at the cost of energizing a building over a period of time, versus the cost of energizing a rehabbed or replaced building, it almost begs the question, ‘Can we afford not to make those changes?’ We definitely can’t,” said borough Mayor Stephanie Scott during an interview.

Gamache said the energy efficiency numbers used in the report are influenced by many variables, including occupant behaviors like thermostat settings. They are established for benchmarking purposes only, he clarified, and could change based on these variables.

Cecily Stern and Ann Myren, who have contracted with the borough to investigate funding sources for relevant projects, also presented.

Assistant to the borough manager Darsie Culbeck said the borough contracted with McCool Carlson and Green for about $33,500 for this phase of the project. Stern and Myron have not yet billed the borough for their services, but the contract will be under $10,000, he said.

The Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee will review and discuss the report during its next meeting, which has not yet been set. The committee will try to develop a preliminary decision or recommendation for moving forward with the master plan project, which will ultimately be submitted to the borough assembly.