Haines Borough Police Dept. (Emily Files)

The Haines Borough Public Safety Building lacks ADA-accessible restrooms and an ADA-accessible entrance to assembly chambers. (Emily Files)

The Haines Assembly will give the FY20 budget a third read tonight. One piece of the pie is set aside for capital improvements to the public safety building.

“It’s gonna stop right there and hang up,” said Al Giddings, the Haines Borough Volunteer Fire Department Chief.

We’re standing next to a fire engine and watching the motor that opens the bay door turn… but the door is only halfway down and not moving. A bay door is basically a garage door for fire engines. There’s money set aside in the borough budget to replace these warped and water-legged doors.

“We know that it’s such a tight time financially, but I think it would be a good investment, ” said Giddings.

So far the doors have worked when they’re needed, but Giddings is concerned that they could hold up an emergency call.

“This particular door stops quite often or jams up, so we’ve had some firefighters who said, ‘Well the engines will drive right through that if it doesn’t work, but…”

As dramatic as crashing a firetruck through the public safety building doors might be, the borough is working to avoid an action sequence worthy of a summer blockbuster.

This isn’t the only improvement the building needs. Borough Manager Debra Schnabel has been working since the first days of her tenure to get the peeling building repainted.

“We’ve got to paint this public safety building its just horrendous,” she said.

“It looks like we don’t care as a community.”

But Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan thought the cost to benefit ratio of a new paint job paled in comparison to another idea.

“They had this idea of sheathing the building and they had been putting money intothe budget, like $50,000 a year towards that project.”

Ryan’s concern was that the paint would be peeling off again in a couple of years. He convinced Schnabel that metal sheathing would be a longer term solution.

For an additional $150,000, he argued  they could sheathe the building and take care of a mounting list of maintenance woes, including the bay doors atthe fire hall.

“This building is very important and we need to invest in it or move on,” said Ryan.

Assembly chambers, the fire department, the police station, the jail, dispatch, borough servers, the morgue… It’s all in the public safety building.

“I felt like if we pulled a little more funds we could get a lot more service out of it,” Ryan said.

“And if we wrap this package all together, it’s the first step in making this building functional.

The full package of improvements includes new windows, new doors, metal sheathing for the building, electrical upgrades, an air conditioning unit to keep the servers and the morgue from overheating, those bay doors for the fire department, and even an ADA-accessible bathroom adjacent to assembly chambers.

Ryan acknowledges people may not want to spend the money right now—state budget cuts mean municipalities are taking on greater financial responsibilities this year. But he says these improvements will extend the life of the building.

All of those upgrades will cost in the range of half a million dollars.

“The alternative is somewhere in the millions to replace it. Ten million, fifteen million… which is a huge investment. So, while a half a million might sound like a lot, comparatively speaking, it’s probably not,” said Ryan.

His next step is to put out a request for proposals and hire a contractor. The goal is to have the project done by Summer of 2021. Many of the upgrades are due to a moisture issue that he’s been addressing.

“People aren’t aware of the moisture issues in the building,” he said.

He’s hoping to put in a few more vents and is considering better drainage around the building.

The manager’s budget allocates money for the upgrades as capital improvements projects. The FY20 budget will get its third reading at the Haines Assembly meeting Tuesday, June 11th.