May 2, 2019
Public hearing for $150,000 paint job
The Haines Borough Assembly introduced an ordinance on Tuesday that would allocate $150,000 of townsite funds to paint the 1977 public safety building.
Earlier this year, the building was denied a state grant for the second year in a row that would have spent more than $500,000 in matched borough funding for upgrades.
The public safety building, which houses the fire department, police department, office spaces and assembly chambers, has issues including excess moisture, failing doors and windows, decay and rotting siding.
Assembly members on Tuesday disagreed over allocating money towards a building that eventually needs to be replaced, but advanced the ordinance 5-1, with assembly member Tom Morphet opposed.
Assembly member Sean Maidy said that “painting a building that’s falling down is just going to make people forget that the building is not in great shape.”
“I concur,” assembly member Josephson said. “But paint serves two purposes: one is aesthetic and one is it’s actually a protective coating.”
Assembly member Heather Lende said she was glad to see the funds in painting the building, and that not painting it, “shows a lack of respect for those services.”
“If we paint it, we can protect it and delay our need while we look for funding,” assembly member William Prisciandaro said.
Assembly to adopt budget by July 1
The Haines Borough will adopt an operating budget, capital budget and capital improvement plan by July 1, 2019, as per charter and introduced in an ordinance to the assembly last week.
The borough manager submitted a proposed budget on April 1.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed state budget poses the biggest threat to the Haines Borough in its potential removal of a school debt reimbursement program that would leave the borough on the hook until 2027 to pay back about $1.2 million each year. The debt would be paid for by an increase in property tax.
The budget will be brought to a committee of the whole meeting and the finance committee before its first public hearing at the assembly meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Schnabel said she has no doubt there will be significant amendments to the draft operating budget before it’s passed. “I expect the assembly members to raise questions and seek answers and make recommendations for changes,” she said.
Committee considers $400,000 in tourism funds to repair roads
Borough manager Debra Schnabel proposed the transfer of $400,000 from the borough’s tourism promotion and economic development fund to pay for road work in the Fort Seward area. The money proved contentious between borough officials at budget meeting on Tuesday.
“It seems to me that we’ve used the surplus in the tourism and economic development fund as a slush fund,” said assembly member Tom Morphet, “If people want roads, we can tax for it directly instead of robbing our tourism efforts.”
Schnabel defended the transfer, which she had written into the draft budget, saying, “We have a fairly large, significant fund balance in our tourism promotion and economic development fund, and it grows because we collect a lot of money…but at this point in time we haven’t developed a program or seen a glaring need for spending.”
$144,000 would remain in the fund balance after the expenditure, Schnabel said.
Morphet said $400,000 is more than the borough spends on tourism. The budget allocates $345,357 for tourism.
“I see this as meeting exactly tourism and economic development. I don’t know how you can’t,” Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan said.
Ryan said that public works “got a push” to maintain those roads from tourism activity at the Port Chilkoot Distillery, the Fireweed restaurant, and the bike race.
“It’s a pretty junky road,” said Ryan.