The current Chilkat Valley Preschool building.

The current Chilkat Valley Preschool building.

The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday bolstered support for the Chilkat Valley Preschool in a few different ways. The group voted to extend the preschool’s lease, waive rent for a year, and voted to support the collaboration with the Haines Senior Center.

It was standing room only at this week’s assembly meeting in Haines, with residents spilling out into the hallway. Most were there to show solidarity with the Chilkat Valley Preschool. Here’s Sierra Jimenez, a member of the preschool steering committee.

“It’s not often that a project can come this far in Haines with relatively no controversy. I’d like everyone here that’s in support of the ordinance and the project to stand up and if you’re already standing, raise your hand.”

Almost everyone in the room stood up. Resident Nancy Nash said supporting the preschool through the lease, and through its effort to build an addition at the senior center, is the least the assembly can do.

“Young people that stayed here and raised a family and young people that don’t live and are considering moving here, all have a very strong expectation that there will be a preschool for their children,” Nash said.

Along with the request for a longer lease and waived rent, a comprehensive plan was submitted by the CVP steering committee. The plan included a funding strategy and a timeline for the completion of a planned addition on the senior center that would house the preschool.

The ordinance to extend the preschool’s lease of the borough-owned Human Resources Building to June, 2017, and waive the $500-a-month rent passed unanimously. But before the vote, assembly member George Campbell urged the assembly to be cautious.

“I like what I’m seeing, I appreciate budget. People have put a lot of effort into this so I’m to the point of thinking that it needs fleshed out really well,” he said.”But I also want to caution everybody that we’re in the same spot we were a year ago where there’s concepts out there but there’s not full solutions.”

Campbell went on to list his concerns, which included the timeline and the tentative agreement with the senior center. He suggested postponing the vote until June. Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer responded.

“Yeah, I won’t support that. I think they’ve answered every question or concern we’ve come up with and I can’t come up with a single other concern or question,” she said.

She added that she was “wishy-washy” at first about the idea of extending the lease, and the CVP-senior center collaboration.

“But why should I be? The entire community wants it. There is no reason for us not to do this. And I need to do something good. I need to sit up here and do something that the community wants for a change.”

After the lease vote, the assembly then took up the motion to direct borough staff to work with CVP on a management and design plan for the senior center expansion. Here’s assembly member Diana Lapham responding to Campbell after he called the motion “premature.”

“We have in front of us the budget for the building construction, for the funding strategy, I would just like to see them get started in solidifying this project,” said Lapham. “I don’t know if construction can possibly start middle, end of this summer or what, but just so they know that we’re on board with the go-ahead on it.”

The motion to move forward on the expansion passed 5-1, with Campbell opposed.

Aside from the preschool discussion, mayor Jan Hill announced that the nonprofit committee decided not to redistribute $14,000 that was declined by the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel last month.

That money came from the Community Chest and it was decided at the Dec. 1 meeting that re-allocating the funds would be left up to the committee. In a letter to the borough at the time, HARK director Tracy Mikowski said while she appreciated the offer, the money would be best used elsewhere. But Hill said Tuesday the money would go back into the general fund, and not to other non-profits.

“Our ultimate decision was that we were not going to make any further distributions this year, but that this should be a topic for serious discussion when we start working on our budget,” Hill said.

Hill cited a notion that former interim manager Bob Ward said during his tenure.

“One of the things that he stated was that the borough should not tax its citizens and then give that money to nonprofits. If the citizens want to donate money, they should do it directly to the ones they care about the most,” Hill said.

Friedenauer questioned if that decision would come back to the assembly for final approval. After all, she said, the assembly had to approve the recommendations for the nonprofit distribution in the first place. Borough clerk Julie Cozzi confirmed that it should go back to the assembly.

That item will be on the agenda for the Feb.9 assembly meeting.

And finally, the meeting capped off with a heated debate that thrust borough clerk Cozzi into the spotlight.

“This is just a silly, not silly, a vicious witch hunt, and it’s unprincipled,” said assembly member Mike Case in response to allegations about Cozzi by Campbell.

Tune in for more on that story later this week.