The Haines Borough Assembly made some key decisions at Tuesday’s meeting including selecting a temporary manager. Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan will take the helm as interim manager starting on Jan. 2. Also at the meeting, the assembly elected to approve the idea to move Chilkat Valley Preschool into a new space at the Haines Senior Center.
Before any of those key decisions were made, Mayor Jan Hill started off the meeting with this:
“Haines has a reputation for being a wonderful place to visit, but also a very contentious community. This reputation is known throughout our region and our state. I have always contended that we are a passionate community and that we are all passionate about what we believe is best for this community. In all my life here, through good times and bad, and believe me, I’ve seen both, I’ve never seen this community be so hateful and vindictive. And it makes me very sad.”
Hill used the pronoun “we” and continued on, saying they have been criticized and chastised, with threats of recalls and more.
“None of these accusations are true. Just because an assembly vote doesn’t go the way you want does not mean we didn’t listen and hear what you have to say. The threats of recall and bullying that have gone on are totally inappropriate and unacceptable and must stop now.”
Hill’s prepared statement went on for nearly four minutes. She praised borough staff and warned the public that those staff members are close to being overtaxed.
Margaret Friedenauer clarified that the statement was written by the mayor, not the assembly.
Not long after that, the assembly discussed the personnel committee’s recommendation to shortlist two candidates for the position of interim manager. Tresham Gregg moved to skip the process and hire Public Facilities Director Ryan immediately.
“We are so fortunate to have someone with Brad’s capabilities and interest in the community and with borough working experience and actual experience in doing real things,” Gregg said. “He knows the community and is invested in it with at least seven years here. He comes to the meetings and is participating.”
Skipping an interview process is unorthodox and not aligned with borough code. The assembly circumvented that rule by voting to shortlist just Ryan, eliminating the need for a prolonged procedure.
Before that vote, Lapham suggested playing it safe and following code.
“We’re not in a critical meltdown stage here,” Lapham said. “We’ve gone through this before, you know we’ve gone through this before. I want to do it right, I want to do it be the book, I want to do by code. That’s why we’re here. Code is our law.”
After much discussion and couple of amendments, they voted in favor 5-1 with George Campbell opposed, to hire Ryan as interim manager effective Jan. 2. KHNS will have more from Ryan about his new role later this week.
Public comment at the meeting was dominated by two topics: Testimony supporting the concept of Chilkat Valley Preschool moving into an addition at the Senior Center, and comments for and against Freeride World Tour scouting a course in out-of-bounds territory. First, the preschool.
Parent Sierra Jimenez said the support of the assembly is the preschool’s “golden ticket.” She said collaboration and merging the entities is the key to the nonprofit early education center’s success.
“The concept of a merger is hard to hear because we are human, we are territorial beings,” Jimenez said. “With mergers comes change and change is hard. There are a lot of unknowns and lot of compromises required by all sides. But because we are humans, we also have that drive to succeed. And the only way in which organizations can succeed in today’s harsh reality is following the exact model that you have before you tonight.”
The assembly was tasked with deciding whether to accept the concept of the expanding the Senior Center building to incorporate the preschool. And while concerns were raised about funding and maintenance, but the resolution before them was only to approve the concept of the senior center incorporating the preschool.
The support of residents at the meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of the idea, but some assembly members had their doubts. Here’s Campbell, who attended the meeting by phone:
“What I could support is giving the senior building to the senior group and the Chilkat Valley Preschool if they want it, and let them take care of it and maintain it. But us to add more to the borough to maintain at more cost, I can’t support it.”
Friedenauer also had financial concerns, but was in favor of going forward with the concept.
“I do appreciate the concept, but to make it clear that after details are ironed out, there’s still no guarantee this will happen because the detail and how that will financially impact the borough is my greatest concern,” she said.
The motion passed 5-1, with Campbell opposed.
Even if the preschool does move into the senior center, it’s going to take a while. In the meantime, the preschool asked the assembly to extend their lease in the borough-owned Human Resources Building.
A motion to introduce an ordinance that would extend the preschool’s current lease and wave the $500 rent payment was then brought forward.
The assembly deliberated first about whether the lease could even be extended again, and whether the preschool should consider moving somewhere else, like into the Presbyterian church. Eventually, the assembly voted 5-1 in favor of introducing the ordinance, with Campbell opposed. The first public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12.
After the preschool decisions, board president Alissa Henry said she had mixed feelings about how the meeting shook out.
“They seem very sympathetic to our cause, I just hope they continue to support us,” Henry said. “They seemed a little wary in the whole concept idea.”
The preschool cleared one hurdle with the assembly’s initial support, and now the work begins figuring out the practical and financial details.
KHNS will have more from the meeting in tomorrow’s newscast including how the assembly came to approve Freeride’s application for the special permit.