Assembly approves pact for use of Mosquito Lake School
The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday approved an agreement with a local nonprofit looking to use the vacant Mosquito Lake School as a community center.
The assembly voted 5-0 to approve the Memorandum of Understanding with the Friends of Mosquito Lake School and Community Center group. Under the agreement, the borough will retain ownership of the building and pay utility costs while the nonprofit will be responsible for cleaning and light maintenance, landscaping, collecting rents and garbage, and overseeing events.
“I don’t see why we can’t do it,” said assembly member Diana Lapham. “It’s an empty building. It’s costing us many thousands of dollars to maintain it empty; why not open it up and let people use it?”
Though the group supported the MOU, several assembly members, including Lapham, expressed support for putting the building up for sale.
“It’s not going to sell really soon. That building could lay empty for another 6-12 months,” Lapham said.
Assembly member George Campbell made a motion to have interim manager Brad Ryan work toward putting the facility up for sale, but nobody appeared to support making that move right away.
“I don’t want to wait forever because I can understand Mr. Campbell’s thoughts on that, but I really think that the matter ought to be referred to a committee first,” said assembly member Mike Case.
Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said she felt uncomfortable about approving the MOU and then turning around and putting the building up for sale right away. “I feel like that’s kind of icky and kind of beside the point of passing the MOU right now. I’d be happy to see how the MOU works out for the community in six months or one year and then revisit the idea of classifying it for sale.”
The borough is hoping the agreement will provide significant savings in electric costs if the community center qualifies for Power Cost Equalization (PCE) credit. It will also likely eliminate the borough’s current maintenance contract with a Mosquito Lake resident who looks after the mothballed facility.
The MOU stipulates that the building will be operated as a public school when feasible but other uses could include as an emergency shelter and as a site for recreation, community celebrations, private functions and public meetings.
The agreement is the result of 18 months of talks between residents and borough officials including Ryan, former economic development director Bill Mandeville, and former manager David Sosa.
Dana Hallett, who has coordinated the effort to reopen the school, said he was grateful for the assembly’s action and anxious to start using the building when the agreement becomes effective April 1.
The group will hold a community celebration at the school and start encouraging other uses. There’s been interest from a heli-skiing company to use the facility for training sessions and discussion of a “trikes and bikes” program and knitting group, Hallett said.
Storage of used wood pellet boilers purchased by the borough in the school’s garage is an example of potential different uses of the building, Hallett said.