Fixing a roof has never been so hard.

On Wednesday night, the borough planning and zoning commission was scheduled to hear a request from Port Lions’ tribal government, which is asking the borough for 1.51 acres occupied by the village’s tribal offices.

If approved as expected by the commission, the request will be forwarded to the borough assembly. If the assembly approves a handover, it would end months of work that started when the Native Village of Port Lions decided to fix the roof of the building it rents.

Port Lions’ tribal offices are housed in that city’s old school building, which was erected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs following the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. In 1988, a new school building opened. Two years later, the tribal offices moved into the old BIA school, which became the property of Port Lions’ city government. The land beneath the building remained borough-owned.

Native Village of Port Lions has rented the old school since then, making repairs and maintaining the building.

From the building, Native Village of Port Lions operates Port Lions’ local fuel company, its preschool, its equipment rental center and its recycling program.

The building is used for Elder meals, Alutiiq language classes and family activities.

The building now needs a new roof, but while the Native Village of Port Lions has money to perform the work, it is restricted to spending that money on real estate owned by the tribe.

Ordinarily, it would be simple for the city to give away the building and the borough to give away the land. Not here.

The land the old school sits on is technically a “school reserve” originally owned by the BIA. That federal agency turned the land over to the state, which conveyed it to the Kodiak Island Borough.

The “school reserve” title has stayed emblazoned on the land, even a quarter-century after the Native Village of Port Lions moved in.

It took months of work to unravel the chain of custody and determine that although the land is labeled a “school reserve,” it can be used for any public purpose, including a handover.

If all goes as planned, the borough assembly could vote on a handover by December.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at

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