Lutak Dock. (R&M Consultants)

Lutak Dock. (R&M Consultants)

How will Haines afford a $37 million renovation to shore up the failing Lutak Dock? It’s a question that came up at this week’s assembly meeting.

The assembly was asked to give its support to the Lutak Dock repair option preferred by the planning commission and the port and harbor advisory committee.

Those two groups chose a design called option 1A, from a list of choices drawn up by R&M Engineers earlier this year. The $37 million would pay for encapsulation of the existing cells and reclamation of several cells that have been partially excavated.

Interim Borough Manager Brad Ryan said if the assembly supports the $37 million option, it doesn’t mean the borough is committing to that project. It just means they’ll use that design as they apply for funding.

“It’s a very difficult place to be in because we have to look at what we’re going to do with Lutak,” Ryan said. “And the planning commission and ports and harbor both were recommending 1A, even if that wasn’t what we were shooting for. It’s a good plan if you get outside funding, but it’s not a good plan if you don’t get outside funding, because we can’t afford it. I mean, I don’t even know how we would start to pay for $37 million.”

So far, the borough has applied for one federal grant. If it were to be approved, the grant would put a $5 million dent in the total cost.

Taking out a revenue bond could be another avenue to pay for the dock. But Chief Fiscal Officer Jila Stuart said that too would only be a drop in the bucket. She said based on the revenue Lutak Dock currently generates, it may only qualify for a between $3 and $5 million bond.

A general obligation bond is another option. Those types of bonds are normally paid for by increases in property or sales taxes, which would be subject to a public vote.

For now, the assembly unanimously voted to support design 1A, with the understanding that the borough may have to fall back on a cheaper option if funding is scarce. The least expensive design drawn up by R&M would replace the dock with berthing dolphins, similar to the new ferry terminal. Even that carries a steep price tag: $21 million.

Assembly member Heather Lende said the borough needs to make Lutak Dock its top priority.

“This isn’t a library addition or coastal trail, this is something we have to have,” Lende said. “And it depends on the economy and the welfare of the town. I feel a big sense of urgency that this is something we’re required to fix and I think we gotta figure out how.”

An engineer’s report from a few years ago said Lutak Dock is ‘living on borrowed time.’ The dock is Haines’ connection to groceries and fuel shipments.