Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Purpose vexes downtown group


The Haines Borough Downtown Revitalization Committee March 27 voted to adorn the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street with picnic tables and whiskey barrels repurposed as flower pots, though the group shot down Mayor Stephanie Scott’s idea for “sun-soaking boulders” to sit on.

Moving boulders could be expensive and difficult to move later, group members said.

The committee also approved a borough-conceived plan to spend $5,000 to contract with a consulting firm to create a “downtown campus” plan for the sites of the former elementary and primary schools, though executive assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck later reported the plan was off the table.

“We decided that we’d rather not spend that money right now,” he said. “We want to be thinking long-term about how to develop the rest of that property.”

Culbeck said there are many pieces at play in that general area right now – potential additions to the library and borough administration buildings, construction of the Aspen Hotel, and a possible trail connecting the school and library – and waiting until those elements come to fruition might be prudent.

“It will sort of solidify what the givens of the area are and whatever is left over we can think about,” Culbeck said.

The committee’s first meeting in more than two years saw much discussion about the group’s purpose and vision.

Committee leader Lenise Henderson Fontenot at one point stated, “We’re not an economic development committee” which prompted former committee member and Chilkat Valley News owner Tom Morphet to object.

“It is about economic development,” Morphet said. “It’s not about flowers and banners. It’s about getting people to shop at home.”

Committee member Patty Campbell expressed a similar sentiment, stating putting out picnic tables, planting flowers and making other superficial changes isn’t going to improve the economy or make a real difference for local businesses.

“That’s not going to help us. It’s not going to help people un-board their buildings,” Campbell said.

Henderson Fontenot asked members to come to next meeting with a solid opinion of group goals and priorities.

Henderson Fontenot also asked committee members to look over the eight immediate priorities for a revitalization effort outlined by the firm that wrote the 2010 downtown revitalization plan. Those priorities are: 1) Formalizing a downtown improvement district and hiring a half-time staff person; 2) Working with the state Department of Transportation on funded improvements and starting discussion of future Main Street improvements; 3) Dedicating a local revenue source to get started; 4) Upgrading signage into town; 5) Starting a building improvement grant program; 6) Establishing a buy-local campaign, 7) Starting a downtown assistance program, and 8) Seeking funding for streetscape infrastructure.

The committee meets 5 p.m. Monday, April 28, at the Rusty Compass on Main Street. 


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