The Haines Borough Assembly Tuesday voted 5-1 to use $65,000 in borough funds to pay for the Mosquito Lake School heating system. Two-thirds of the cost of the $186,550 project will be paid by a state grant.

The decision keeps intact a contract with Dawson Construction and moves the project ahead, effectively bypassing objections by the borough school board, which had been planning to pay for the work with school funds but had questioned a double-boiler design. It wanted cost estimates for a single boiler or alternative energy system.

The assembly decision came with no discussion after an executive session.

“We’ve got 18 kids going out there (to school) now. Let’s fix it now instead of waiting six months,” member Jerry Lapp said afterward. Lapp had no comment on the school board’s contention that the project was overpriced.

“They seem to be okay with this, as long as the borough is (paying for) the match. My feeling is let’s go ahead with this and get it behind us.”

Member Steve Vick said there was concern the borough “would lose credibility with the state” for future projects if it didn’t proceed with the project. “If we got put up that high on the list and we turn it down, where is our credibility the next time we have an emergency project?”

The project was funded as part of Gov. Sean Parnell’s priorities for urgent school needs around the state, but school officials recently told the school board the current heating system would easily last another year.

School superintendent Michael Byer also told the board at its last meeting that it had several years to complete the work without jeopardizing the state matching funds.

“Manager (Mark Earnest) expressed it to us with a little more concern about the timeline,” Vick said. “For me it was also a concern that they wouldn’t have it done before winter.”

Assemblyman Norm Smith cast the dissenting vote, saying the pricetag was too high.

“I don’t care if it’s grant money or whose feelings we hurt. It’s wrong to spend that kind of money to heat a 6,000-square-foot building. I don’t care if six engineers approved it. It’s too much to spend. This is spending other people’s money and it’s wrong. It’s what’s wrong with the whole country.”

Member Joanne Waterman said she supported the project because she trusted the information received from Murray and Associates, the engineering firm that proposed the system. “I felt comfortable with the reasons they gave for the project, the redundancy systems, the size of the building and the gained efficiency. I felt comfortable with their explanations.”

school board president Carol Kelly said she accepted the decision. “They’re responsible for major maintenance in the school. If that’s their choice, that’s fine.”

The school board last week drew up a list of concerns about the project that it sent to Earnest and that it was planning to discuss with borough officials. Kelly said she’s still expecting a response to those concerns, including ones from the school’s teacher that a forced-air system there is noisy, dusty and tough on students with allergies.

“I’m a fiscal conservative,” Kelly said. “I believe an efficient heating system could have been chosen for the school that would have been less costly.”

Assembly members after the meeting said they weren’t sure why an executive session was necessary for discussion of the issue. Member Scott Rossman cast the lone dissenting vote against the closed-door session.

Earnest said this week he couldn’t recall if the executive session was his idea or that of borough attorney Brooks Chandler. The motion to go into executive session said that immediate knowledge of the discussion “would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the borough.”

Earnest said the session was based on “potential claims” against the borough, although Dawson Construction president Gary Hovde told the borough a week ago his firm wanted to remain friendly with the municipality and wouldn’t pursue a legal claim for the borough’s termination of the contract.

Earnest said a week ago the borough would be Dawson’s costs to date, as the contract had been approved by the borough and work was under way when the school board balked at funding it. Dawson never provided the borough an estimate of those costs.