Borough denied grant for ADA upgrades, plans to appeal
March 28, 2019
The state fund grant proposal that would have allocated more than $500,000 for a public safety building upgrade was rejected this month for the second year in a row, two points shy of approval.
The Haines Borough plans to appeal the denial based on inconsistent review of a nearly identical past budget proposal.
“I feel an obligation to appeal when the basis of the scoring is factually wrong,” said Krista Kielsmeier, executive assistant to the borough manager, who wrote the grant.
In October, the Haines Borough Assembly unanimously selected the public safety building proposal for the Community Development Block Grant fund. The CDBG is administered by the Division of Community and Regional Affairs to address issues related to health and safety.
Proposals from 18 Alaskan communities were evaluated by three judges based on five categories: project description, project plan readiness, project impact, budget and administration.
Haines scored an 80, just two points away from falling within the top eight communities to receive funding.
Public safety building upgrades would have added ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible stairs and a ramp at the police and assembly entrances, along with revised men’s and women’s restrooms. The assembly planned to match the fund for a total cost of about $850,000.
According to the CDBG 2018 score sheet, Haines lost the most points for ‘project impacts,’ reviewed consistently at 15 out of 25 possible points. Judges gave written feedback; “project is for limited clientele, did not identify how many elderly or disabled persons specifically benefitting.”
In the grant, Kielsmeier wrote “The Borough is eligible for CDBG funding as a limited clientele applicant, and there is tremendous need to serve our growing elderly population. Although Haines’ population has declined by about 200 people since 2008, its 60 and older population has increased by 51 percent. Haines has a median age of 49.3 years old, well above the statewide average of 34.9. In fact, as of 2018, Haines is the oldest community in Alaska.”
An attached information sheet that showed Haines’ ADA population is above state average, Kielsmeier said. “I assume they wanted us to literally track people, which I think would be problematic (and) controversial at public meetings.”
Kielsmeier said that she understands subjective evaluations from new evaluators each year, but disagrees with “objectively false feedback.”
“This year’s evaluation shifted into factually untrue statements, which I found frustrating,” she said, “Especially given we were two points short.”
Other feedback included comments that the budget did not explain administrative costs.
“They are mentioned in the chart,” Kielsmeier said. “The program allows 5 percent administration costs.”
Judges also wrote that there was no cash match towards the ADA improvements, which Kielsmeier said is inaccurate. The proposal lists $39,810 for cash match on ADA improvement designs.
Public facilities director Brad Ryan said that the CDBG denial means more borough funding will likely be allocated to the building. “The fate of it is, we’ll have to start putting in a lot more borough funds toward it,” Ryan said. “It puts the ADA upgrades on the back burner until we can make sure the current function is there.”
The public safety building encompasses the fire department, police department, office spaces and assembly chambers. Major issues with the structure include excess moisture in the building, failing doors and windows, decay and rotting siding, Ryan said.
Kielsmeier said she will submit the appeal this week and expects to hear back within 30 days.