The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Aleutian Village negotiations hopeful Jean says

Interim city manager will hold town meeting with residents Friday

 


City officials are hosting a town meeting this Friday to give residents of Aleutian Trailer Park a briefing on last week's meeting between city administrators the park's owners, the Aleut Corp.

It will be held at City Council Chambers at 6:30 p.m.

City hall kicked into high gear to meet with officers of the corporation after the company sent notice to all the park's mobile home owners eviction notices last month, a move that would displace over 70 mobile homes - and their occupants.

"The attorney and I are still going back and fourth on a proposal that we want to send to the (Aleut Corp.) to keep the park open," Interim city manager Robert Jean said in a telephonic interview Monday. "Our goal is pretty much clear."

Jean and other city officials met with officers of the Aleut Corp. a week ago Tuesday in an effort to determine the intent of the company.

Jean said the meeting went well and was enlightening, but declined to divulge details of the outcome.

"What was clear, is the Aleut Corp. does not want to be in the mobile home park business," Jean said.

Residents of the park turned to city hall for help after the mass eviction notices began hitting post office boxes last month. In turn, city officials recognized the crisis that will grip the park's residents if they were forced to move their homes or find alternative housing.

Jean said the meeting with the Aleut Corp. was fast-tracked and a promised meeting with the park's residents beforehand was not possible.

A standing-room only crowd attended two meetings with city officials in the days following the eviction notices, and a number of residents testified that it was their desire to keep living at the park. No one spoke in support of the intended closure.

"We want to keep the neighborhood in tact," Jean said.

Issues with the park's residents, the Aleut Corp., the City of Valdez and the land's owner, the Alaska Dept. of Transportation, are complex.

The land is leased by the Aleut Corp. from DOT. In turn the Aleut Corp. rents space to mobile home owners.

At one time, the City of Valdez leased the land from DOT and it was sublet by the Aleut Corp. as a trailer park.

As the city's long-term lease on the DOT land neared its expiration, city officials helped negotiate a direct lease between DOT and the Aleut Corp. - with strings attached.

This involved bringing the park's infrastructure up to city building code. This included upgrading the park's electrical supply, connecting space lots to city supplied water and paving the park's dirt roads. Much of the required infrastructure was built but never completed.

Water lines were run through the park but not stubbed to individual spaces, and the electric upgrades were not brought online. These and other required upgrades were written into the lease between the Aleut Corp. and DOT.

A number of the park's residents - some have petitioned city administration and elected officials to bring the park up to code for several years - have asked the city to use the incomplete upgrade requirements as leverage in negotiations to keep the park open for business.

Before the mass eviction notices were sent, Jean had been working towards adding funding to the city's 2016 budget to create a city housing authority to address the marked lack of housing - affordable or otherwise - available in Valdez.

The surprise eviction notices hastened the process according to Jean, who promised residents the full backing of the city's clout in fighting the evictions.

How the park will be managed if the evictions are vacated is not clear.

City management, the formation of a cooperative and other ideas put forward at recent meetings have not been fully vetted due to the fact that neither the city or the residents of Aleutian Village knew the intent of the Aleut Corp.

 

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