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Historic Preservation Commission works to protect notable sites in Fairbanks North Star Borough

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 4:43 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has continued to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, holding its latest meeting on Monday, November 23rd.

Molly Proue, Chairperson of the HPC, explained that the commission carries out the Historic Preservation Plan for the borough and creates and maintains an inventory of historic structures.

According to Melissa Kellner, Long-Range Planner with the borough, the commission has “authority to act as a consulting party whenever there’s some sort of federally funded project on a historic structure or property.”

Kellner explained that the 7-member commission is unique in that “it’s a joint city and borough commission.” This means there are two appointed seats from the city of Fairbanks and one from North Pole. The remaining four seats are at-large for the borough.

Each seat is appointed by the mayor of its respective location.

Proue said that after an initial pause at the start of the pandemic, the commission began meeting again a few months ago.

Currently, the HPC is involved in a number of projects throughout the borough, including preservation of the S.S. Nenana, which is a National Historic Landmark, and a nomination for Pioneer Park to enter the National Register of Historic Places.

Of the latter, Proue said, “It was completed about a year ago, and we’re waiting to submit this formal nomination to the Office of History and Archeology and the State Historic Preservation Officer until that office is fully staffed.” It is expected for that to happen in the next few months, according to Proue.

To preserve the S.S. Nenana, the HPC is working with the organization Friends of the S.S. Nenana, with the ultimate goal of being able to open the site for tourism again.

Kellner said the commission also participates in outreach and education opportunities. “They nominate different organizations or individuals for awards recognizing their efforts in historic preservation,” she said, adding, “They also like to identify private property owners that have taken particular responsibility and interest in revitalizing or stabilizing their historic property.”

One seat on the commission is currently vacant, that of the city of North Pole.

Kellner explained that because this seat has been historically difficult to fill, the requirement that the person holding the seat live within North Pole city limits has been removed, with the individual acting as a representative of the North Pole community.

“We’re very interested in filling that seat, not only to be a full-strength commission, but also to have that perspective of someone representing the interests of North Pole,” Proue said.

Members of the HPC serve three-year terms. Those looking to apply for the seat are encouraged to contact Melissa Kellner at (907) 459-1260 or Mellissa.Kellner@fnsb.gov.

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