Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Borough pursues bonds for school


Acting as a combined body, the Haines Borough Assembly and school board voted Tuesday to begin a process that could put $6.94 million in school improvements before voters in October in the form of school bonds.

The group voted to spend up to $6,000 to apply through a state program that reimburses the borough up to 70 percent for the cost of the projects. The projects would go before local voters – individually or bundled together – for the remainder of the funding.

With the maximum state reimbursement, the combined projects would cost residents about .4 mills in property tax for 20 years. But leaders suggested Tuesday they may put the projects to voters individually to ensure that a bond “package” isn’t defeated due to inclusion of a single, unpopular item.

Projects include high school locker room and pool locker room repairs ($2.5 million), high school roof replacement ($1.9 million), mechanical upgrades to the voc-ed building ($1.67 million), Mosquito Lake School mechanical system upgrades ($475,000), and high school air handling unit replacement ($350,000).

“These are projects identified by the borough as essential to our infrastructure,” said Mayor Stephanie Scott.

The group agreed to consider together repairs to the pool locker rooms and entry ($1.65 million) and the high school locker room upgrades ($850,000) because they are located adjacent to each other, with plumbing combined.

“It’s tough to tease these projects apart. It’s tough to say we’re going to fix this in these buildings up to this point. It’s impossible,” said superintendent Michael Byer.

A backdrop to the decision was a report by Byer that Gov. Sean Parnell has not indicated he would fund a Department of Education capital improvement major maintenance program that picks up the tab for school projects statewide. Local projects recently ranked as high as 14 on a statewide list, Byer said. “With no money in the fund, we might as well be ranked 200.”

Byer said some of the mechanical upgrade projects on the list were identified as immediate needs seven years ago when the high school and elementary schools were combined.

Following about an hour’s discussion, the combined group also voted to “approve in concept” locating a preschool modular building on the school campus. The Chilkat Valley Preschool sought approval as the first step in its plan to move from the borough’s aging Human Resources Building. Preschool officials say they’ll pay for construction and operation of the school, which has operated out of the First Avenue building for 41 years.

School board member Brenda Josephson and assembly member George Campbell voted against the motion. Josephson raised questions about having a private preschool on borough property and had questions about insurance liability and shared use of play areas. Campbell said use of school property should be offered as a request for proposals and questioned the cost to the borough of working with preschool officials to site the school.

School board chair Anne Marie Palmieri said the question was really just about the preschool moving from a borough-owned facility to another piece of borough-owned land.

Leaders included in their decision a provision that technical details of the arrangement be brought to borough and school district officials by Aug. 1.