Borough Plans New Chiniak Library / Tsunami Shelter After Fire

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

In the summer of 2015, Chiniak residents lost their library and tsunami shelter to the Twin Creeks fire. The flames engulfed the building and its contents. Now, Kodiak Island Borough employees are working together with locals to bring the structure back to life and fill it up with books for kids, teens, and adults.

The library and tsunami shelter’s future is dependent on the hopes and dreams of Chiniak residents – but also on the Kodiak Island Borough’s insurance company. Borough construction inspector and engineer, Dave Conrad, says employees will incorporate feedback from both the insurance representatives and residents.

“The policy was a replacement value policy, so consequently we speak with the insurance company and their task is basically to replace what was existing. However, we also have to be the advocates for the folks that live in Chiniak. They’re the ones that are the users of the tsunami center / library, so consequently we’ve had three separate meetings with these folks, to get some concepts.”

Bob Tucker, borough director of engineering and facilities, says they’ll stick to the pre-fire building plan, but not exactly.

“The structure that was there before was a two-story structure, and the second story loft was pretty much unusable for students and the size of it, and so what we’re trying to do is work with the insurance company to actually design the building in a different way so it’s single-story, but we have the same square footage on one level.”

He says that will be more useful to residents.

The pre-fire and post-fire buildings will have more in common than not, based on Conrad and Tucker’s descriptions, and the new structure will have the features that make it useful as a tsunami shelter, like a standalone generator.

Tucker says they’re aiming to complete construction in the fall.

Meanwhile, residents are full of ideas. Arwen Botz says she hopes to bring back the weekly playgroup she once held in the building.

“We did some fine motor stuff and socialization and creativity and obviously the early literacy part, trying to engage them early on in the interest in books and what they can get from that as well as engaging their parents in that. I’m working on my master’s in early childhood education, so this was really pertinent stuff, and I run a play group in town as well, so it was nice to be able to do it both avenues and for me to benefit personally as well.”

While construction hasn’t begun yet, residents are already busy collecting books from individuals and libraries from around the state.

Many Chiniak locals have also held onto the books they borrowed before the fire. If all goes according to plan, they’ll soon have a place to return them.

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