At its most recent meeting, the Haines Borough Assembly reversed its decision on a piece of the small boat harbor expansion it initially voted out. The assembly agreed to pay more than $400,000 for an extra 33 feet of wave barrier protection and additional deepening of the harbor floor. But the assembly is also set to commit the same amount of money to uplands development. It was an effort to assuage both harbor advocates and skeptics.
In early November, the assembly approved a $13 million contract for construction of the harbor expansion’s first phase. But to save a bit of money, the members voted to take out add alternative C: about $380,000 worth of breakwater protection and dredging.
Assemblyman Tom Morphet explained why he supported taking add alt C out of the picture.
“I thought it was kind of a concession that was made to leave some money, perhaps for the harbor park,” Morphet said. “And I think the history of this issue is that there was a strong concern for the effect of this project on the aesthetics of our waterfront.”
Assemblywoman Heather Lende questioned the matter coming back to the table when the group already voted on it.
“I’m confused that we voted on this last time and then it came back,” Lende said. “Is that normal on the assembly? If the body votes against something, does it keep coming back forever?”
Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer responded that she and other members had been ‘lobbied hard’ to reconsider add alt C. By people like Andrew Gray, who spoke at the meeting.
“I just strongly encourage the assembly to pass this based on various user groups who said how much this improves the functionality and safety of the harbor,” Gray said.
Since the assembly took add alt C out of the phase one contract, borough staff brought it back as a change order. The price for the work increased between November and now, from about $380,000 to $420,000.
Lende and Morphet had previously advocated for a public vote on the harbor design. Now that that proposal has failed, Lende said the borough might as well try to do the best it can with the project. She suggested that if the borough was going to spend this $420,000 on add alt C, they should commit the same amount of money to Portage Cove beautification. The visual impact of the harbor is one concern many have raised.
“I think that would a really honorable compromise,” Lende said.
After consulting with Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan, Lende changed the wording from ‘beautification’ to ‘upland development.’
The assembly decided to vote on that motion at the next meeting, to give public notice. If approved, $420,000 of state grant funding for the harbor expansion would be dedicated to upland development.
The assembly went ahead and approved the $420,000 add alt C change order. Tresham Gregg was the only member to vote against it.
The contention around the harbor carried into two other items on the assembly agenda.
The assembly considered a cooperative agreement with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for design and permitting of a sport fishing ramp. Fish and Game would pay the $500,000 expense. If all goes as planned, the contract would be extended to include construction of the ramp, also covered by Fish and Game.
Lende balked at some of the wording in the contract. But after hearing assurances from Ryan, the assembly approved it in a 4-2 vote.
The assembly was also divided on a harbor-related citizen appeal. Paul Nelson appealed the borough manager’s decision to grant a land use permit for the harbor project. His case first went to the planning commission, which denied it. Nelson then appealed to the assembly.
Friedenauer said she agreed with the planning commission’s decision that the harbor project didn’t need a conditional use permit because it’s a public facility.
“I just think that there’s no other way to look at it,” Friedenauer said. “I don’t see that the planning commission erred in the way they made their decision.”
Morphet and Gregg wanted to hear Nelson’s appeal. But they were outnumbered in a 3-2 vote. Lende did not vote because she was on the planning commission when it heard Nelson’s case.