By DUSTIN STONE

The Municipality of Skagway has awarded Architects of Alaska with a contract for the completion of  “a schematic design with preliminary plans, specification and cost estimate for a Vocational Education Building” at Skagway School.

A request for proposals was sent out November 8, 2016 and, of the four responses received, Architects of Alaska’s proposal was given the highest score of 91 out of 100. This score was based on criteria including project understanding and approach, and firm resources and experience.

The proposed building is intended to provide Skagway students not necessarily wishing to continue to a four-year university with vocational training in various potential technical fields like auto repair, plumbing and welding. The hope is that this would provide them with broader career options here at home, while concurrently strengthening Skagway’s economy by adding more skilled tradespeople to the job pool.

The assembly voted four to one in favor of awarding the project to Architects of Alaska.

The sole dissenting vote came from Assemblyman Orion Hanson, who stated that he did not disagree with the merit of the project, but doesn’t believe the municipality should add another large construction project to its growing debt.

“We are at a dangerous threshold where our debt is about to exceed our reserves. How are we going to pay for it?” he asked. “It’s foolish to continue funding studies. When do we learn to say ‘no?’ ”

Hanson said he believed the project to be more of a luxury than an immediate need.

Assemblymen Tim Cochran and Steve Burnham Jr. argued that the benefits of a vocational education building would likely outweigh the monetary cost, which cannot be determined until the initial, budgeted, investigation and design phase is complete.

“We don’t know what it’s going to cost,” said Burnham Jr. “Sixty thousand dollars to get a better scope of what this project will entail, to do a good 30 percent of the engineering is worthwhile.” – DS