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

Assembly members propose library, museum consolidation


February 6, 2020 | View PDF

While Government Affairs and Services Committee members were disinclined to include an assembly chamber in the public library’s expansion project, two expressed interest in consolidating the museum or the visitor center with the library.

“I think the borough needs to think of consolidating more,” GAS committee member Gabe Thomas said during a meeting this week. “I think the library is a prime start up. We can think of other things …the museum for example. I don’t see why we couldn’t see the museum and library together and utilize that space.”

Committee member Brenda Josephson, who voted last year against spending $30,000 to fund preliminary designs for an assembly chambers expansion, said the museum’s displays, and perhaps storage, could be incorporated into a library expansion project. She said eliminating redundancies between library and museum services would save money.

She cited an architectural report last year that listed myriad deficiencies in the museum’s building including lack of ADA access, deferred maintenance on the exterior envelope, roof and siding problems, antiquated mechanical and electrical systems and high operating costs due to inefficient systems.

“I became acutely aware of how much of a challenge this building is by (the museum director’s) presentation,” Josephson said of a November meeting at which the assembly approved a grant application that would improve ADA access. “It made me feel like ‘Why are we putting a dollar into this building?’” Josephson told the CVN.

At the GAS meeting, she said she opposes the cost of adding assembly chambers into the expansion project, which is estimated to cost between $600,000 and $700,000.

While the library’s expansion will be funded through grants and Friends of the Library fundraising efforts, Josephson said she’s concerned also about increased operating costs. She cited the rising operating costs of the library’s first expansion, and proposed cutting the library’s budget by 10% last year.

“The reason the library’s operating cost expanded is they had a bigger building,” Josephson said. “Now I’m concerned about them getting a bigger, bigger building.”

Borough manager Debra Schnabel said she and borough administrative staff are supportive of adding assembly chambers. Besides relocating the chambers from the dilapidated 50-year-old public safety building, which fails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it would be cheaper overall to include the expansion in the library’s project.

“As a single-use facility, assembly chambers are not cost-effective, operationally. The cost can be justified when sited within a space for broader community purposes,” Schnabel wrote in a memo supportive of the assembly addition.

Assembly member Stephanie Scott attended the meeting, and said the library is a place where people are reflective, and that an assembly chamber, where residents often engage in heated debate, doesn’t belong in such a space. She later told the CVN she’s opposed to combining the museum or visitor center in the library for the same reasons.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the deficits in the tourism building or the museum building, but I don’t think that’s the solution we should pursue,” Scott said.

In the meantime, library advisory board members asked the committee to give them some indication of whether or not they support the assembly chambers in the expansion, an addition some said they are ambivalent about. The project has been in the works for several years, and the estimated costs have increased since the idea to add the assembly chambers was introduced. If the assembly approves the 65% design, the board can begin fundraising efforts for the project that’s now estimated to cost between $1.4 and $3.2 million depending on the project’s scope.

“It’s a pretty modest project on the face without the assembly piece there,” board member Margaret Friedenauer said. “I’m just reiterating we’d like to get started on that when you do come to a conclusion about the 65 percent.”

Friedenauer told the CVN that the board’s main goal is to expand staff space. The basic expansion project would do that, along with extending the community room toward the parking lot, as well as adding space that would be used as a meeting room behind the stacks.

The library board will discuss the proposal to include the museum or the visitor center in its expansion plan at its Feb. 16 set for 4 p.m. in the library conference room.


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