During a special meeting convened Friday, the Haines Borough Assembly directed manager Mark Earnest to research cost estimates for burying power lines near the intersection of Front Street and the Old Haines Highway.
Assembly members Norm Smith, Joanne Waterman and Steve Vick called the special meeting to discuss what Smith called the “power pole debacle.” Alaska Power and Telephone recently relocated several large power poles as part of the intersection’s reconstruction.
“It’s a travesty what has occurred here. I think that we need to come up with a solution here to figure out what to do to solve the problem. If it costs us a half-million dollars to do this, we will come up with the money someplace,” Smith said.
Assembly members Dave Berry and Steve Vick were less gung-ho about spending money on the project. Berry said he was concerned about the borough’s fund balance, and Vick said the borough just might not have the money.
“I just don’t know where that money is going to come from right away. I think we can work toward long-term solutions and make sure it doesn’t happen anymore – changes in code – but with this case, it may just be a lesson to be learned,” Vick said.
Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez, who is researching the issue while manager Mark Earnest is on vacation, said he has prints for the project and is working with AP&T to identify where conduit crossings could be installed. Those prints will be forwarded to PND Engineers and then to contractor Southeast Roadbuilders, which will provide estimates, Jimenez said.
Estimates will be provided for three situations: burying conduit for the lines at the intersection crossings, burying conduit from the intersection all the way to Main Street, and performing a full burial of underground utilities.
Conduits are the casings for utility lines. “There’s a lot less cost to just putting a conduit in the ground. You’re not actually paying for the material. You can just put the line in later,” Jimenez said.
Borough staff is researching whether cruise ship head tax money could be used for the project, and if any is even available, Jimenez said.
State Department of Transportation representatives, who attended the meeting telephonically, said there were no state funds available for burial of the lines.
Jimenez said he hopes to have estimates to the assembly by Tuesday’s meeting.