Haines Borough Manager David Sosa is bringing a facilitator from the University of Alaska Anchorage to Haines Dec. 4-5 to help “facilitate the conversation” about the Lutak Dock, for about $5,000.

The information and planning session follows a draft report released last month by PND Engineers identifying multiple structural problems with the facility.

“The purpose of the session is to continue to update the community on the status of Lutak Dock, provide some information on possible options for the facility, receive input and advice from the community, and plot a course for continued conversation aimed at producing a solution and having a redeveloped facility that meets current and anticipated needs within three years,” Sosa said.

At an Oct. 28 meeting with the assembly and engineers from PND, Sosa said using the facilitator would cost in the “neighborhood of $5,000.”

Melissa Houston, an entrepreneurship specialist and “certified strategic doing guide,” will lead the session. She works for the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Center for Economic Development.

Houston is bringing two to three other people to help facilitate, Sosa said.

“For a number of years the borough has sought a plan for Lutak Dock but was unable to achieve consensus,” Sosa said. “The process we are undergoing will be a multi-year project aimed at strategic objectives and it will require the commitment of significant resources. In light of this, and after consultation with (the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority), I felt it was advisable to bring in assistance to help us start the process.”

Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez said it’s hard to put a price tag on a fix, since the borough hasn’t decided what to do yet.

“My guess would be somewhere in the realm of $15-$50 million, depending on what the town chooses,” Jimenez said.

 Based on the PND report, Jimenez said just fixing the existing structure isn’t really an option. “It’s not viable to repair, what’s in existence there,” Jimenez said. “We’ve attempted to fix it and failed. The cells are to the point of suffering catastrophic failure. I don’t see how you would go about fixing it…It’s going to have to be a rebuild.”

The question is whether to rebuild to the existing facility’s standards or to upgrade, and if so, to what extent, Jimenez said.

 Bill Kurz, board member of the private Haines Port Development Council, said the Lutak Dock should be fixed to the extent that it can be used as it has been in the past.

 “It’s a fine facility for what it was designed to do. It needs to be fixed properly. Not a band-aid, but a good, honest fix,” Kurz said.

 Another dock should be created to handle the potential export of ore and other minerals that might be coming down from Canadian mines or the Palmer Project in the future, Kurz said. That facility would ideally come to be through a partnership between the borough and a private company interested in an ore dock but also needing a freight dock to land equipment for development of a mine.

 How options will be financed – bonds, legislative funding, grants, private investment – is a big question mark.  

Aside from the assembly and borough staff and committee members, stakeholders identified for participation in the December meeting include Alaska Marine Lines, Delta Western, the Chilkoot Indian Association, Haines Chamber of Commerce, Haines Port Development Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, Takshanuk Watershed Council, legislative and state agency representatives, and representatives from Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Sosa said he would also like to have the borough’s Haines Port Development Steering Committee resurrected to participate in the process.

The goal of the December session isn’t to come up with a concrete solution right away, Sosa said.

“The goal is not to have a solution after Dec. 5. Given the scope and scale of any project at Lutak, the situation is too complex to make a decision like that with such haste. Rather, the goal is to have a plan to move forward with outlined responsibilities to see the plan through,” Sosa said.

   The borough recently installed a $30,000 concrete slab as an emergency measure to address weaknesses in the dock. “This action will help assure continued safe use of the facility until such time as a more permanent solution can be adopted,” Sosa said.

 At the Oct. 28 PND presentation by engineer Mike Huggins, the assembly learned of the extent of the deterioration at the Lutak Dock. “To be blunt, it’s pretty impressive that that structure has hung together for 61 years,” Huggins said.

As far as how long the borough has before the facility’s catastrophic failure, Huggins referred to that as “the 64-million-dollar question.”

 “Do I yell ‘Fire’ and have everybody run out of the building? No. Do I say, ‘It’s almost time to yell fire’? No. Is there a lot of smoke? Yes,’” Huggins said. “You’ve got what I call a good fighting chance to just utilize the structure for the operational needs of the town while you plan what you’re going to do to replace it, to deal with it.”