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

Assembly approves $30,000 design for chamber in library


January 10, 2019

In its final public hearing, Mayor Jan Hill broke a tie vote during Tuesday’s assembly meeting in favor of spending $30,000 for a design that would incorporate the assembly chambers into the library expansion plan.

The decision to spend the money has divided the assembly since October when the proposal was introduced and recommended by borough manager Debra Schnabel. The borough is also pursuing a $500,000 Community Development Block grant that would add ADA accessibility to the public safety building, the funding of which would renovate the existing chambers.

Assembly member Stephanie Scott questioned the honesty of applying for two separate grants for two separate plans. She also said the library was an inappropriate place to engage in politics where legal decisions are made. “I think that’s an awkward decision process to engage in the library, which is our place of thoughtfulness and consideration and quiet,” Scott said.

Assembly member Sean Maidy said spending the $30,000 for another option made financial sense, and that they shouldn’t make the decision based on where the assembly felt the chambers should be located. “Libraries have been the home for intelligent, passionate discourse since they came around,” Maidy said. “That’s one of their primary purposes. How we feel about where the assembly chambers should be shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Later in the meeting, he advocated for having the assembly chambers at a place where lawmakers didn’t appear to be magical after assembly member Tom Morphet said he was concerned that the library would be too cramped considering all the activities that go on there, and that any new space should be exclusively for government use. “I think it would be better to stop thinking that lawmakers were magic and they’re regular people in a communal place and make it more comfortable and accessible,” Maidy said.

In a memo to the assembly, Schnabel said the proposed confluence between government and scholarship is attractive to the library expansion projects potential funders, including the Rasmuson Foundation “which has called for a larger community meeting room.” Schnabel also said design and construction costs for combined use would be less than those costs for two single-use facilities.

“This is a decision to spend money to plan,” Schnabel said in her memo. “When the plan is complete, we will have a greater appreciation for the facility and its construction costs…Should we choose to abandon this plan, we would be the wiser for it, having spent only $30,000 to explore practicality and feasibility.”

Assembly member Brenda Josephson said the discussion would be more appropriate during the budget making process.

Assembly members Will Prisciandaro, Heather Lende and Maidy supported the expenditures. Members Josephson, Morphet and Scott opposed it.


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