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'Muniplex' plans discussed


Preliminary diagrams for a Haines Borough “muniplex” have sparked discussion among community leaders and members of the ad-hoc Master Plan Steering Committee over whether such a facility should include a fitness center for police and fire personnel and whether the building should be one or two stories.

The committee has requested a cost estimate from Anchorage-based architect Jason Gamache for the complex, which would include the fire hall, jail, dispatch center, assembly chambers, government offices and possibly the visitor’s center.

Gamache provided several diagrams to the borough illustrating a two-story, 20,000-square-foot building. Gamache stressed the diagrams are not designs, but are being used to illustrate space allocation, rather than layout or configuration of rooms.

Still, committee members latched on to Gamache’s drawings and forwarded their comments. Mayor Stephanie Scott and committee member Patty Campbell expressed reservations about the expense of an elevator, which would be required to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

“I would prefer having the building all on one story with the functions of assembly/admin separated from police/EMS. So there would be two separate entrances... Those are two very different functions, and I just wanted them to be separate, sort of psychologically,” Scott said.

Assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck said two-story buildings are generally more cost-effective and efficient, as a smaller surface area of roofing and foundation is used. “Right now (Gamache’s) design is two stories, and I think that stems from efficiency of capital expenditure.”

Inclusion of a fitness center and men’s and women’s locker rooms in Gamache’s diagram also sparked questions. Committee members were confused by the fitness center and couldn’t really say where it came from, as it hadn’t come up during their discussions.

“It looks like it may specifically be for the police or fire department. I’m all for fitness and fitness centers, but to put a little one in a building like this is inappropriate,” said committee member Ron Jackson.

On seeing the diagrams, committee member Steve Vick said he didn’t understand where the fitness center came from or whether it would be open to the public. “It was kind of a throw-in there. I’m not sure how it got in there... It didn’t come from the group. That’s something we need to talk about, anyway,” Vick said.

Scott said she is “not in favor of an exercise room for the police department.”

“They should make some arrangement with the school and make use of the equipment over there. I don’t even think it’s worth considering,” Scott said. “I don’t think we’re ready for that.”

Gamache’s diagram also shows assembly chambers as being a shared space for fire and police training, a combination Scott criticized.

“I didn’t think that that was suitable. Looking at those two programs and knowing what I know about how much they train, they need a classroom, a space devoted to them,” Scott said.

Earlier diagrams included a visitor center, but the latest ones provided by Gamache omitted the center. Vick said he was “adamantly opposed” to its inclusion.

“There’s not much that could convince me otherwise, unless we were getting a free visitor center. It makes more sense to be located downtown and not next to the police station,” Vick said.

Culbeck said the issue right now is just getting a solid estimate of program area size so Gamache can move forward with providing a cost estimate.

“Really, it’s not about design; it’s about square footage. Whether you want a two-story building or a one-story building or you think that the bathroom should be on the other side... We’re not doing design. We’re just talking about what it’s going to cost, in general,” Culbeck said.

Culbeck said he hopes to have a price tag for the muniplex in two to three weeks.