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


Discussion of trailer includes removal plan


Discussion about the Haines Borough’s decision to buy a trailer and site it behind municipal offices isn’t over.

Questions raised last week include the trailer’s permanency and how a utility pole got to be installed next door.  

The assembly recently approved purchase of the $12,500 trailer to house public facilities director Carlos Jimenez, who was displaced from his office in the administration building after manager David Sosa was hired.

Planning commissioner Heather Lende said she was confused why the borough didn’t have to obtain a temporary use permit for the 450-square-foot trailer, which is what any other property owner would have to apply for if they wanted to put a trailer on their property in the townsite.

A temporary use permit ensures the structure will be removed within 18 months.

Planning and zoning technician Tracy Cui responded to Lende’s question at last week’s planning commission meeting, saying she consulted with clerk Julie Cozzi and determined the borough doesn’t need to obtain a permit for itself.

Lende also inquired about the utility pole erected to provide power to the trailer.

According to code, installation of a utility pole requires assembly approval if it isn’t placed between a sidewalk and curb line or within one foot of an alley boundary.

Manager David Sosa acknowledged the error. “I had some questions raised about the utility pole and it does turn out a utility pole does require approval by the assembly, so we erred in that,” Sosa said.

The pole costs $350 a year to rent, plus electricity used, said public facilities director Jimenez.

Lende said she was also assured by staff that the trailer is only temporary. “I just think it’s unfortunate, because it’s so ugly and it’s in the prettiest spot where the two nicest buildings are,” Lende said.

“I can live with ugly temporarily, but not permanently,” she added.

Assembly member Debra Schnabel – the only assembly member to vote against including the trailer in a fiscal year 2014 budget amendment – said she doesn’t think the borough will move the trailer in 18 months.

“I think more importantly than what (the trailer) looks like is I think they are not going to keep it as a temporary installation,” Schnabel said. “It will develop a sense of permanency because the only alternative we have at this point is a new building or an extension of the existing building.”

The assembly funded purchase of the trailer as part of a current fiscal year budget revision, so it required no separate public hearing or review. Staff described the purchase as a temporary solution to the problem of limited space for employees.

For the past seven years, the facilities director’s office was on the second floor of the public safety building. Sosa and Mayor Scott successfully argued that the facilities director needed closer proximity to other borough staffers.

“I was not 100 percent in favor of the decision, because I didn’t understand why it was ineffective to have (Jimenez) placed over at the public safety building. Then it was explained to me and I observed how closely (Jimenez) works with (the rest of the staff), and it became evident to me that he needed to work that closely,” Scott said.

Potential permanent solutions to the problem include building a “muniplex” or adding on to the existing administration building, Sosa and Scott said.

Scott said she doesn’t believe the muniplex will happen anytime soon, and said the two most realistic options will be adding on to the existing building or sending the public facilities department back to the public safety building.

Scott said she is strongly opposed to the trailer becoming permanent and expressed confidence it would be removed within 18 months.

“People don’t like the way the trailer looks. That’s a whole, philosophic thing. Why don’t they like the way the trailer looks? I truly don’t understand the objection,” Scott said.

Sosa said the trailer can be sold or reused when a more permanent solution is identified.

The borough purchased the trailer from Pacific Pile and Marine after it finished the Port Chilkoot Dock project.

The trailer includes two offices and a small meeting room, and the $12,500 price tag included file cabinets, printers, chairs, desks and other office items, Jimenez said.

Jimenez also put in new flooring for the trailer, which cost about $1,400. Jimenez said the improvements will potentially increase the resale value of the structure.