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Downtown group members question role, power


Members of the Haines Borough’s Downtown Revitalization Committee on Monday found themselves at odds with the municipality’s structure and vision for the group.

The group met in a 90-minute workshop discussion instead of a meeting, due to a lack of quorum. Members Harriet Brouillette, Christy Tengs Fowler and Kristine Harder were absent.

Members Heather Lende and Lenise Henderson Fontenot pressed Mayor Stephanie Scott about what actions the group could take that weren’t first sanctioned by the Haines Borough Planning Commission and Haines Borough Assembly.

Member Henderson Fontenot asked whether the committee could even send a thank-you letter without prior approval of the borough higher-ups. Scott responded that action by the group would need to go through the borough’s chain of command.

Scott’s response seemed to exasperate Lende and Henderson Fontenot, who expressed concern that such a process would slow any progress to the point of it making the group ineffective.

Lende and Henderson Fontenot also questioned a view of the group’s upcoming work as expressed by the borough administration. Community and economic development special projects director Christina Baskaya expressed manager David Sosa’s view that the group needed a strategic plan, with short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.

In the meantime, an unsanctioned Main Street beautification group could attend to aesthetic improvements, Baskaya said.

Lende and Henderson Fontenot, however, said the group should be led by the $40,000 Haines Downtown Revitalization Plan, funded by the borough and completed in 2010.

Henderson Fontenot said the plan, by Juneau’s MRV Architects, could be tweaked and that some pieces of that plan might not be usable, but that she would hesitate to launch another planning process.

Lende said her experience in Haines was that if the committee were only a planning group, it would make little progress. She cited recent removal of a derelict soda machine – following questions raised by the committee – as the kind of progress the group should be making, instead of formulating plans.

Henderson Fontenot said she also was more results-oriented. “I’m really motivated to get moving on something.”

Henderson Fontenot, who chaired a previous, citizen-based downtown revitalization committee, said that group took on many projects but ran into political heat when it publicly opposed commercial trailers in the townsite. The group’s authority was questioned at that time, she said.

Former Haines Borough manager Mark Earnest, who appointed the citizen-led revitalization committee, objected to the group making a statement on trailers.

The group’s next meeting is set for 5 p.m. Aug. 4 in the assembly chambers.


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