Haines Borough staff have been considering a scaled-back design for the renovation of Lutak Dock. That’s because they’re struggling to come up with funding for the preferred option. But the planning commission is not satisfied with the less expensive plan.
Last month, the assembly gave Borough Manager Debra Schnabel the go-ahead to pursue funding for a $21 million dock design.
The option preferred by the assembly, planning commission and Port and Harbor Advisory Committee cost $37 million. That’s what the borough originally applied for a federal grant to pursue. But the application was rejected.
“Our problem is that the costs of our project at $37 million are so high that we have been unable to pull together a package of matching funds,” said Schnabel.
Schnabel said in addition to grant funding, she’s seeking between $8 and $10 million from money that had been set aside by the state for the Juneau Access Project. That plan was abandoned at the end of last year.
Commissioner Brenda Josephson asked why Schnabel didn’t ask for a larger portion of that money.
“So there’s $40 million in Juneau Access Road, why didn’t you ask for the $15 million which would have been the 40 percent of the $37 million project?” asked Josephson.
In the state’s capital budget, legislators reallocated only about $20 million of the Juneau Access money for Lynn Canal infrastructure projects.
Norm Hughes is vice chair of the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee. He said the group wants to talk more about the designs before setting on the cheapest option.
“The harbor committee would like to have more conversations about which way we’re going to go at least on the community level and with users of the dock,” said Hughes.
Josephson agreed with that. She said the cheaper design could be problematic in the future. The $21 million design uses berthing dolphins and significantly reduces the uplands footprint of Lutak Dock.
“I think as planning commissioners we’re looking at a 75 year minimum for this dock,” said Josephson. “We’ve got to plan for the future needs. And I appreciated Norm’s comments about that we need to ask the user groups about this. I find this to be crippling for our community and our future.”
The dock is where freight and fuel comes in to Haines. And it’s deteriorating. According to engineers, it’s living on borrowed time.
Rob Miller said that’s one reason the borough needs to move quickly.
“It was really clear to me that we’d be giving up quite a bit for the cheaper one and as an engineer and as a person that did dock design for most of my career it hurts me to contemplate that, but what really hurts me is to contemplate what happens if that dock cuts loose before we have firm plans to fill it in, and how that’s going to affect all of our lives,” said Miller.
But Donnie Turner said he’s still not ready to accept a scaled back design.
“If you go to the minimum, that’s what we’re going to get,” said Turner. “So you’re deciding to back out of the project is really what’s going on. If you go ask for the small project that’s what you’re going to get. I’m just not really at this point ready to ask for the small project personally.”
And Jeremy Stephens said, while timing is a concern, the borough should keep trying to find the money for the right design.
“I too am worried that what if this thing falls over before we ever get funding,” said Stephens. “But the funding is there. The money is there. And when your proposal gets shot down you get the feedback and you re-propose. And there’s more than just one grant out there, I don’t know why we’re putting all our eggs in one basket.”
Schnabel says she will continue to look for funding to pursue the more expensive dock option.