July 18, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 28

Borough adds $210K to Front Street work

The Haines Borough has agreed to chip in up to $210,000 toward state-funded Front Street improvements, bringing the project total to about $5 million.

The assembly voted July 9 to use $110,000 of cruise ship head tax funds to ensure that existing Front Street sidewalks are replaced. It also voted to appropriate up to $100,000 from the borough’s Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) fund for installation of drain pipe to redirect water and minimize frost heaves.

Perceived shortcomings in the Department of Transportation’s designs, including incomplete sidewalk improvements and superficial reconstruction of the roadway, led the borough to contribute.

Pat Carroll, DOT’s design group chief, said the project initially was funded at $2.9 million, but during development took an additional $1.8 million from other statewide cruise ship projects. Still, it wasn’t enough to pay for complete reconstruction of the Front Street sidewalk or replace anything but the asphalt – such as the base, sub-base or subgrade layers – of the roadway.

“The budget on this project limited the scope of improvements that could be achieved. As it was, the project was shortened to fit the available funding,” Carroll said.

Manager Mark Earnest said design plans were known months ago, but discussion at a recent meeting with contractor Roger Schnabel of Southeast Roadbuilders made the project’s shortcomings more salient.

“I’m glad this came up as a concern when it did. It could have come up before, but it came up now and we’re addressing it so we’ll end up with a much better product,” Earnest said.

To make the contribution, the assembly voted July 9 to amend the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed between the borough and DOT on May 25, 2012. The agreement stipulated a transfer of ownership to the borough following the state’s improvements.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said she and public facilities director Carlos Jimenez stumbled upon the ownership clause several weeks ago. “We missed that on May 25, 2012, in our first Memorandum of Agreement, which Carlos and I found... We already have agreed to it,” she said.

The ownership transfer also came as a surprise to assembly member Norm Smith. “I would never have approved any of this if they were going to give us the road.”

Earnest said in addition to the ownership transfer being explicitly stated in the original MOA, he reiterated multiple times that the borough would take over ownership of the road after the project’s substantial completion date.  

“It was explained. Obviously it was in the MOA, but also I remember mentioning that several times... I don’t remember exactly when. I do remember making that comment multiple times, but just because somebody says something doesn’t necessarily mean that it sticks or that people remember it.”

Ownership of the road will allow the borough more leeway in developing the surrounding area for the impending harbor improvements, he said.