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

Pool, locker rooms removed from bonding effort

 


Voters likely won’t get to decide this year whether they want to bond for $784,000 in repairs to the Haines High School locker rooms.

The Haines Borough Assembly voted unanimously Tuesday to remove high school locker rooms from an ordinance that – if passed – would put $3.9 million in school capital improvements projects on the Oct. 7 ballot.

  The high school locker room removal effectively postpones $975,000 in pool building upgrades and repairs, as the assembly agreed the two projects should be completed simultaneously.

“The high school locker rooms are intimately attached to the pool locker rooms,” said assembly member Debra Schnabel. “For us to put $784,000 into the school locker rooms without also concurrently working on the pool locker rooms would be a huge risk.”

“The two are not only linked, but the school locker rooms are directly underneath the pool locker rooms and, as the pool locker rooms leak and have issues, it destroys the work that would be done on the school locker rooms.”

The high school locker room work is approved for 70 percent funding by the state Department of Education; none of the $975,000 in pool work qualifies for department funding.

Haines Borough Manager David Sosa said staff has been working to see if swimming could be incorporated into the school curriculum, potentially making the pool eligible for some Department of Education funding.

 “If that does occur, then (the department) could take another look at the pool and make a determination that it is partly school owned, in which case we may be able to get if not the 70 percent, maybe 20 or 30 percent reimbursement,” Sosa said.

School superintendent Ginger Jewell said delaying the projects would be “the fiscally responsible thing for us to do.”

Partial funding of both projects could make bonding more palatable to voters.  

Other projects in the ordinance that may be included on the Oct. 7 ballot include high school roof replacement ($1.8 million), vocational education building mechanical upgrades ($1.7 million) and high school air handling unit replacement ($412,000).

If the ordinance is approved after its second public hearing Aug. 26, residents will be able to vote on each project separately during the Oct. 7 election. The three projects have been approved for 70 percent funding by the state.

While voting to advance the ordinance to its second public hearing, some assembly members expressed a reluctance to put the issue on the ballot.

 “I don’t like to pass general obligation bonds or any bonds in any form to put more additional tax on our people,” said assembly member Dave Berry, “but at the same time, we have been discussing these problems as long as I’ve been on the assembly – granted it’s been short – but these are not new.”

  Assembly member Joanne Waterman took exception to Berry’s characterization. “I totally understand not wanting to raise taxes, but in this situation we are not raising taxes as a body. We are putting it before the people of this borough as to whether they think these projects are important enough for them to want to participate in this way,” Waterman said.

“I totally trust these people to make this decision about their future and how they want it to go. We’re just asking them ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’” Waterman said.

Assembly member Jerry Lapp said he “didn’t mind putting this to the voters,” but said he was bothered by the fact that seniors who make up a large chunk of the voting population don’t have to bear the burden if a mill rate hike is imposed to pay for the bonds.

 “We’ve got a lot of seniors that are exempt from part of the property tax, so this doesn’t affect them a lot, yet they are a huge percentage of the voters,” Lapp said. “The ones who don’t get the exemption and stuff are taking the burden of the bonds.”

 
 

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