Craig Loomis votes for priorities with a sticker during a goal setting session. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

A four-hour assembly session with a discussion facilitator on Saturday whittled down some of the sprawling goals members had put forward, but left more work to be done before putting forward concrete proposals.

At the top of the priorities was the yet-nebulous topic of improving relations between the borough assembly, administration, local tribes and the community. Several members said they’d been stymied by lack of trust brought on by historical missteps, power dynamics, and most recently, a controversial property tax assessment process.

The assembly also identified developing infrastructure for subsistence and recreation, replacing the failing Letnikof Dock, reducing the cost of living in Haines, and building a stronger relationship with the state government, as other high priorities.

After four hours and several rounds of voting, assembly members asked facilitator Mila Cosgrove, who was hired after an open bid process, to send a second round of survey questions to members. The survey asked members for three concrete proposals for how to move forward on their goals.

Mayor Tom Morphet said despite the lack of concrete proposals, he thought the meeting was a success. He said bringing the six assembly members together — as well as borough manager Annette Kreitzer — was important to build relationships. The assembly and manager have had high tensions after the assembly learned of two high-profile stumbles on infrastructure projects that put federal funding at risk — Lutak Dock and Porcupine Trail Road.

He said having four hours together in an informal discussion helped assembly members get to know each other better.

“If you don’t know each other, you got six people going into a room like they’re going to take a bomb apart at each meeting,” he said.

The session cost the borough $2,975, according to finance director Jila Stuart.
Notably farther back on the list was the question of the $25 million Lutak Dock rebuild project, which has dominated assembly discussion in recent months. While it was discussed at Saturday’s meeting, members seemed inclined to wait for word from the U.S.

Department of Transportation on where the project stands after it was revealed that the borough’s contractor may have violated federal rules in purchasing steel before the project had been fully approved.

“I think it’s going to work itself out,” said assembly member Debra Schnabel.