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

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Cost estimates skyrocket in Aleutian Village subdivision plan

Residents rally after city administration pegs cost at over $5 million

 

Source: City of Valdez public information

Sticker shock set in last week when the city's dept. of economic development presented a hefty cost estimate attached to the proposal to develop Aleutian Trailer Park into a city subdivision.

Flabbergasted.

That is the word one attendee used to describe the $5 million price tag city administration attached to a plan that would create a new subdivision out of the Aleutian Village Trailer Park.

The estimate came in at between $5.2 and $5.6 million, well above previous numbers floated by former interim city manager Robert Jean, who had speculated the cost to range from $1.6 to $2.3 million.

The new estimate was presented to council at a work session before the regular meeting a week ago Tuesday.

The estimates were presented to council at the start of the work session - and its price estimates caught many off guard.

Lisa Von Bargen, the executive director of the city's dept. of economic development, apologized to council for not presenting the numbers before the work session.

A second work session was held Tuesday night to allow park residents give council their views on the development.

It has been widely speculated that a cost exceeding the $2 million mark would be a deal breaker in the quest to change the trailer park into a subdivision.

The estimates were put together as part of a plan to create a new city subdivision for residents of Aleutian Trailer Park, who currently rent spaces for mobile homes from the Aleut Corp. The Aleut Corp. rents the land from the Alaska Dept. of Transportation.

Last fall, the Aleut Corp. sent eviction notices to all mobile home owners in the park. The notice gave mobile home owners an August 31 deadline to move their homes and personal property from the site.

"Aleut Real Estate, LLC intends to cease its operation of the Aleutian Village Trailer Park," the notice said, and stated that all mobile homes must be removed from the park by midnight, August 31, 2016.

Ten years ago, the city leased the land from DOT and sublet it to the Aleut Corp.

When the city turned over the DOT lease directly to the Aleut Corp the lease contained stipulations that the corporation hook up the park to city water and that the electric system and sewage in the park be brought up to code.

Water lines were put in, and electrical upgrades installed, but the two systems were never brought online for residents. In the ensuing months, city administrators said it planned to use the Aleut Corp.'s lack of compliance with the lease stipulations as leverage to keep the park open.

The Aleut Corp's lease with DOT states the land must be returned to its original state should park operations cease.

Valdez Star photo

Aleutian Village Trailer Park is a popular low-cost housing option for many in Valdez.

City officials then floated a plan that called for the Aleut Corp. to continue management of the park - operating at a loss - for two years. This would allow the city time to buy the land from the State of Alaska, and do the work needed to create a subdivision. A rotating loan program would allow current residents to buy the lots where their mobile homes sit with monthly payments near or below the current cost of space rent, which is $250 monthly.

In its effort to help park residents, the city conducted a study of the economic situation of the park's residents, and hoped to qualify for a federal block grant to help fund the scheme.

A vague Plan B - to help current residents relocate - has also been discussed, but not vetted or fully formed.

The need for low-cost space for foundationless homes in Valdez was quickly evidenced in the days after the eviction notices arrived last September.

A number of residents had been urging city hall to address code violations in the park for many years.

 

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