KHNS receives borough funding

The Haines Borough Assembly unanimously approved a $20,000 allocation Thursday to KHNS in the wake of stripped state funding.

Last month, KHNS station manager Kay Clements requested the money from the assembly after Gov. Mike Dunleavy eliminated public radio funding, which amounted to about $75,000 for KHNS.

To compensate for cuts, the department eliminated two part-time positions, changed programming distributors and is discussing other cost-saving efforts.

“I think that the radio is invaluable for just the emergency services alone,” assembly member Sean Maidy said.

Assembly member Tom Morphet said the allocation was appropriate this year.

“I think because of the rather immediate and unprecedented nature of Mr. Dunleavy’s cuts, we have to help our neighbors this way,” Morphet said.

Assembly members Will Prisciandaro and Brenda Josephson said they appreciated the station’s financial approach to the cuts.

“I think the radio station has already looked at ways they can save money and they’re doing the best they can right now,” Prisciandaro said. “This will help them bridge the gap between coming up with a plan and what they’ve had to deal with in the past month or so.”

Chief of police designation reconsidered

The Haines Borough Assembly Thursday reversed an earlier decision to elevate the chief of police position to a borough officer. The status change would have put the chief directly under the supervision of the assembly rather than the borough manager.

The motion to reconsider was made by assembly member Sean Maidy who said that at the time the ordinance was brought up, the intent was unclear.

“This is going to constitute a department change,” Maidy said. “This used to be how the department was run and that’s why this was changed, because having a manager manage the police instead of the political body of the assembly provides a buffer to prevent corruption.”

Borough manager Debra Schnabel said she saw the original motion as the assembly’s dissatisfaction with her management of the police chief.

“If the assembly expects to engage in conversation with the department heads about how their departments should be run or funded, that’s kind of what I do all day long as a manager,” Schnabel said. “I think it’s somewhat dangerous for a police chief to be functioning on a day-to-day basis with the idea that they can be dismissed by an elected body.”

Assembly members Tom Morphet and Brenda Josephson voted against the reconsideration.

Morphet said he’d like the assembly to be able to hire and dismiss a police chief.

“I have no interest in managing a police department day to day, but I think when it comes to hiring and dismissing a police chief, the police chief has to know the police answers directly to the public and nobody in between, and the public are the people on the assembly,” Morphet said.

Schnabel said she was concerned about Morphet’s comment because managers have to be able to evaluate their personnel to make a decision. “I’m fearful of that,” Schnabel said. “I don’t know the motivation.”

Assembly member Heather Lende, who originally proposed the change with the intent of more open communication with the police chief, changed her vote on Thursday.

“It is worth more to me to keep Debra in the good graces of the assembly and the community then to argue—which I still believe would be the right thing—to have the police chief as an officer of the borough,” Lende said.

Policing Ballot Question

On Thursday, assembly members disagreed on a proposed charter amendment that would sanction areawide policing on the October ballot.

The vote would amend the charter to make it legal for police to respond to calls for help from Lutak, Mud Bay, and the Haines Highway- a job they’ve already been doing in cases of emergency since November.

The current borough charter limits police service to the townsite.

In October, out-of-town voters opposed a hike in property taxes to pay for police service in their neighborhoods. Following the vote, the Haines Borough Assembly directed police to stay within the townsite, but quickly reversed their decision when the state troopers would not respond to calls for emergency help.

Assembly member Tom Morphet proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would require the vote to pass in two areas, both inside and outside the townsite service area.

“The people inside the townsite who want the service should be asked, do they want to extend that service which would probably dilute the service they’re getting by expanding it up the highway?’ Morphet said. “The second question is for people who don’t live in the service area, to ask if they want it. To make the change binding, they both have to agree this is the fairest way it can be decided.”

The amendment tied 3-3 with assembly members Will Prisciandaro, Sean Maidy and Stephanie Scott opposed. Mayor Jan Hill broke the tie, voting it down.

Maidy said the details of the service area are “budgetary questions, “but do not address the area of jurisdiction. “I think it’s extremely important that since this jurisdictional boundary affects the entirety of the borough, that we all vote on it together,” he said.

Assembly member Brenda Josephson said the charter change is an issue of budget.

“What is this going to cost and how are we going to pay for it?” she said. “Right now, that needs to be the conversation.”

The ordinance is scheduled for its second public hearing on Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in assembly chambers. There will be a committee of the whole meeting for ballot propositions on Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in assembly chambers.