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

What should town's message be to state?


A Haines Borough committee is trying to hash out what priorities the municipality should submit to the Alaska Legislature, and it wants to hear from citizens.

Manager David Sosa told the Government Affairs and Services committee last week that some people faulted the borough last year for not putting the discussion out to committees and members of the public. The list consisted almost entirely of local public facilities projects, like the wastewater treatment plant upgrades, Lutak Dock replacement, road improvements, and the harbor expansion project.

Opening the list up to public comment might have broadened the list of priorities to include larger issues like the state’s Haines Highway realignment project and cuts to the ferry system that can’t conceivably be dealt with internally, Sosa said.

 “That might have gotten the ferry and the Haines Highway on there,” Sosa said. “And I would argue those are things that we can’t fund, we need state support on, that could have enormous impact on our community, that can bring in money to do repairs on some of our local projects.”

Sosa also floated the idea of including appropriate management of the Haines State Forest. “I don’t know if those are things that we want on the list, but I do know those are things that people in Haines have talked about,” he said.

Other projects included on last year’s list, in descending order of priority, were the Oceanview area slump mitigation and drainage improvements, Haines High School pool locker room and mechanical system upgrades, Public Safety Building replacement, high school roof repair and Port Chilkoot Dock improvements.

Committee member Diana Lapham said she would like the Chilkoot River corridor to be included on this year’s list. “We need to get a handle on the Chilkoot corridor, in my mind,” she said. “It deserves long overdue attention.”

Public interest in changes on the mile-long road has waxed and waned over the years, with new tour permit applications and particularly troublesome human-bear interactions sporadically thrusting the issue back into the spotlight.  

Recent human/bear behavior along the river has residents and visitors calling for restoration of a bear monitor position, which the Division of Parks discontinued in 2013, citing budget shortfalls and authority issues.

Committee member George Campbell piped up to say the borough has the power to do something about the situation, but Lapham responded, “I don’t want to see the borough be on the hook for 100 percent of enforcement.”

Campbell said he would prefer the state priorities focus on the borough’s infrastructure needs.

“I understand the Chilkoot has its issues, but again, what fire are we going to put out?” Campbell asked. “We have powers to do some stuff at Chilkoot that we have not exercised – that we have refused to exercise – because it’s been brought up before. So to me, I understand you wanting to put that on the state priority (list), but I personally want to try and figure out how to get us out of this building issue. Our infrastructure needs attention.”

The committee passed a motion to send last year’s list of state priorities to all boards and committees for comment. The groups need to have their recommendations in by Oct. 7.

Manager Sosa said this week the borough hasn’t yet put out a Request for Proposals for the $45,000 state lobbyist position the assembly approved this year. It will be published “in due course,” he said.

The GAS committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, to continue the discussion on state legislative priorities. 


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