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Commission rejects comp plan RFP


March 19, 2020 | View PDF

The planning commission voted unanimously to decline to award a bid for the 2025 Haines Borough Comprehensive Plan Action Summary, with some members citing a lack of transparency and possible lack of information for potential bidders. However, it’s not clear if the borough manager will heed the recommendations.

In a memorandum given to the planning commission in preparation for the meeting, borough manager Debra Schnabel said the comprehensive plan is scheduled for a complete revision in 2025. “I believe that even with limited resources we should move forward on this update,” she wrote. “It is the official guiding document for our borough, and we seem to be entering a period of dynamic decisions about economic and community development issues and land use.”

Schnabel said that the need to review and update the comprehensive plan was identified in 2017 by previous Haines boroughp Holly Smith. Smith began working on it, Schnabel said, but other job requirements took precedent. Smith’s replacement, Tim O’Melia, was also unable to complete the job before resigning last month.

The Comprehensive Plan Action Summary is described in Schnabel’s Request for Proposals (RFP) as a list of goals, objectives and actions relating to topical sections of the comprehensive plan. The RFP was designed to solicit a qualified applicant to “update and revise the topic areas of the 2025 Comprehensive Plan Action Summary … through a process of public engagement and professional treatment.”

Haines Economic Development Corporation (HEDC), Corvus Designs, and Haines resident Burl Sheldon responded to Schnabel’s RFP. HEDC bid $15,000, Corvus Designs bid $45,390.25, and Burl Sheldon bid $14,400 to do the work. Commissioners and the manager stressed that Haines Borough code does not dictate that the bid must be awarded to the lowest bidder.

Lengthy discussion among the commission centered around the process for soliciting the RFP. “I believe in transparency to the public and that is why I requested the manager issue an RFP,” chairperson Diana Lapham said. She said she was uncomfortable because she felt local applicants, HEDC and Sheldon, had access to more information than Juneau-based Corvus Designs. Lapham and Turner said they attended an HEDC board meeting where the RFP was discussed.

Schnabel said she sent the request for proposals to individuals and organizations she thought would be qualified, including Burl Sheldon and HEDC. “It’s hard for me to appreciate right now what has transpired to make this situation … complicated and complex,” Schnabel said. “I don’t think it is in any way inappropriate for any government or any entity that wants to get a job done to make sure that … resourceful people know there is an opportunity.”

“None of this process is sitting well with me,” said Lapham. “I hope certain people were not given information that was not available to all applicants. Right now, I will not be rushed to recommend this project to anyone until we address (the process).”

Commissioner Rob Goldberg addressed finances. He noted there was not a budget included in the RFP and questioned whether the high bid of Corvus Designs could have been due to a misunderstanding of the limited scope of the job contract. Goldberg said he thought the RFP should go out again, this time with a clearer outline of available borough funds and more detail on the scope of the work.

Schnabel reminded the commission that Haines Borough code does not require the planning commission’s involvement in awarding a contract. She said she will either reissue the RFP with the commission’s recommendations, award a contract to the applicant she feels is best able to meet the needs of the borough, or have the job completed by the next Haines Borough planner once the position is filled.


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