SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



No to White Cliff Project
By G. J. Williams


September 09, 2006

Dear Sitnews,

The White Cliff Project was initially begun in an effort to save the 75 year old school building. The facilities that are to be placed in the site are greatly needed and I support the intended uses whole heartedly, I hope to use them myself someday.

There does seem to be a rush to save the building itself and I have recently heard "no time like the present" and I believe there is "no time like the present to take time" at the beginning of the project to thoroughly re-evaluate the proposed project as it stands and DO IT RIGHT. Why is this building now sound enough to put a beginning estimated price tag of $14 million dollars into when it was not sound or cost effective enough to bring it up to code in the preceding years?

Regarding this subject I feel we need to recognize the natural flow of the lifecycle. We will have young and agile dancers, all the folks in between and seniors with special needs using this facility. The lifecycle of the property itself needs to be acknowledged and allow the building to finish its days with honor and affection. The legacy and heritage of the White Cliff School can be attained in a deep and meaningful tribute without remodeling the existing building. Build a completely new building; preserve the facade and place it in one of the lobbies, use the cornerstone to build on anew or place it in one of the lobbies, integrate all the artifacts such as doors, moldings, the staircase and anything else that bespeaks of the old building into the new building. Include tiles with the names of all the people who populated the building over time, list them in family groups when possible and allow people in the community to purchase/contribute to these but include everyone here and gone. Adding the library to the plans is another great use to include.

As I understand it the cost to demolish the present building will cost $4 million dollars, how much will it cost to remove the same hazardous materials and what other obstacles will be found as this is done? My uneducated guess at what hazardous materials may be present and of issue are; lead paint, lead pipes, and asbestos which require a specially licensed company and much containment to remove either by demolition or remodel. Will the cost be the same $4 million or more? Is the community willing to save this present building at all costs ? The Schoenbar remodel has been a disaster that is being paid for twice and is not yet in use, (every student currently in K-HI and middle school has never been schooled in Schoenbar) is the community ready to take on another remodel of even greater proportions and costs?

The architectural company currently involved specializes in saving old buildings - nothing is stated about them specializing in senior facilities or large multi-use public spaces of this scale. This should be a huge heads up to the community to take into account the state and local laws and building requirements for licensing of a senior facility and public spaces. I don't believe the $14 million dollar price tag is realistic and the idea that changes can be incorporated along the way does not bode well.

How would this project be affected if we vote on consolidation and it passes before voting on the tax issue to pay for this remodel on the October 3rd ballot? The ballot as it reads is to fund the remodel of the existing 75 year old building. Ballot Measure Proposition One, Ordinance # 1403 see section B, G(1), I, J, Section 3(d) and Section 4. There are a variety of phrases and words used in reference to White Cliff school-building-property-center, well, which one are we really voting on? I encourage everyone to go to the web sites or find the information wherever available; review the information and draw your own conclusions before voting.

I feel a NO vote at this time is a more thoughtful and responsible vote. Let's give this project an opportunity to be done RIGHT with a more detailed re-evaluation of the project. It just might just save money and time overall for final completion.

White Cliff Project Web site can be accessed through their advertisement on Sitnews (you're here anyway) or at:

Architect Web site:

Borough Web site:


G. J. Williams
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: "Citizen, Voter"


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