In 2016, the Haines Borough spent about $29,000 on the Mosquito Lake School facility. The school closed down due to low attendance in 2014. Upper Valley residents fought to keep it open as a community center. But the revenue generated from that activity doesn’t come close to covering the costs of keeping the building open.
A motion was in front of the assembly at it most recent meeting to appoint an advisory board for the Mosquito Lake facility and take the sale of the building off the table for three years.
Assemblyman Tom Morphet questioned whether they should make that promise.
“I never understood that the sale of the facility was on the table,” Morphet said. “So I don’t understand why we would handcuff ourselves either way.”
A couple years ago, after the school closed, the borough did move to sell the building. Former manager Dave Sosa encountered strong resistance from community. He ultimately withdrew his request to put the facility up for sale. In early 2016, the borough signed an agreement with Mosquito Lake residents to open the building as a community center.
Assembly member Heather Lende said after going through that ordeal, taking the sale of the building off the table for three years would give Upper Valley residents some peace of mind.
“What I heard from the Mosquito Lake community is that this would guarantee them some time, no matter who is sitting up here on the assembly or what the changes may be in the next two or three years,” Lende said.
But other assembly members said it would be an empty promise, because the current assembly can’t guarantee what the next assembly will do.
They voted 4-1 to remove the language about taking the sale of the facility off the table. Lende was opposed.
Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said she had ‘major concerns’ about the borough continuing to put money into the building with no long-term plan.
Mosquito Lake residents hope it will eventually reopen as a school. But Friedenauer said she talked to Haines School Board President Anne Marie Palmieri, who said that’s unlikely in the foreseeable future.
“It would take major changes in the state budget, major changes in our borough’s population to unfortunately ever see that opening as a school again,” Friedenauer said. “Not to mention there’s Klukwan School 10 miles away, where some of those families go now. So to have two schools in the borough right now is quite a gift, when schools like Tenakee shut down completely. And I think that that’s an argument – I don’t want to perpetuate false hope. I think it’s very unlikely that would open as a school again.”
Friedenauer pointed out that the borough has dozens of facilities on its books, which all cost money. Two are in Mosquito Lake – the school and the Klehini Valley Fire Department. Friedenauer suggested there may be a way to combine those resources into one building.
“I understand that this is an important entity for the community out there,” Friedenauer said. “But the amount of resources that go into it, it’s hard for me to swallow.”
In 2016, the school/community center generated about $450 in income. That only made a small dent in the $29,000 the borough paid to maintain the facility.
But Lende said the assembly needs to recognize the contributions Upper Valley residents make in the form of taxes and community service.
“This is about the only thing that we do out there for them,” Lende said. “And I think it doesn’t seem like an exorbitant request.”
The assembly voted to appoint an advisory board for the Mosquito Lake building similar to that for the Chilkat Center. A couple members said they hoped the board could come up with ideas for a long-term plan for the facility.
An ordinance codifying the advisory board will come before the assembly in the near future.