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

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Negotiations approved by council to buy land for new city facilities

Some council members hope to purchase a portion of the 15-acre parcel

 

Source: City of Valdez

A view of the land with an approximate outline of its boundaries.

City council is dubious about administration's proposal that would add almost 15 new acres of land to the city's holdings - but gave a firm thumbs up for negotiations to proceed on purchasing at least part of the land.

The asking price for the parcel is $1.3 million, but the land was recently appraised at $975,000 by Clint Lentfer of the Alaska Appraisal & Consulting Group.

"It seems expensive," council member Nate Smith said when council began discussions on whether or not it wanted city administration to begin negotiations with Gavora, Inc., owners of the land that fronts Egan Drive near the Richardson Highway and runs parallel to Meals Ave.

City administration has eyed the tract to consolidate a number of city's land needs closer to town.

"We could also use that property for a fire department and also a storage facility," city manager Dennis Ragsdale said.

Council did not like the cost of the acreage.

"$66,000 an acre, that seems a little high," Smith said, while noting that a new fire station has not been budgeted or approved.

Ragsdale noted that the city and others that need snow storage have lost access to that property due to the fact that it is up for sale.

"I'm not sure if we need almost 15 acres to do that," council member Lea Cockerham said.

He is not against buying land - but does not want to purchase more than is needed by the city.

Smith said buying the land before firm plans for a fire station are on the table is putting the cart before the horse.

"I'm not nickel-diming the location," Smith said, but hoped to avoid excess. He also believed the appraisal price of $975,000 is not realistic for current market conditions.

Lisa Von Bargen, the city's director of economic development disagreed, and pointed to other parcels in the downtown area, particularly a lot between the small RV Park and the church on Meals Ave.

"That property appraised at $100K" she said.

Mayor Ruth Knight asked if the land could be subdivided so the city could buy seven or so acres.

Von Bargen said acquiring the land makes sense if council gives city administration a nod that it intends to build a new fire station.

It was also noted that the geography of a building site is an important component in cost estimating a new construction project.

The fire department is hoping for a three-acre site - if the council approves a new off-site fire station.

"Do we give you carte blanche to do this?" Knight asked.

Von Bargen said city administration would need to get council to actually complete a land purchase - after a negotiated price is set.

"We just didn't want to go out and negotiate without knowing if the city council really wants to build a new fire station," Von Bargen said.

While council members Smith and Cockerham balked at the size of the parcel, council member Lon Needles voiced positive opinions.

"We can find things to do with this land," he said, and pointed out that council's next agenda item was a land-use approval on Loop Road for the police department to develop a secured lot for impounded vehicles.

The council voted unanimously to allow negotiations to proceed - with an eye toward acquiring only a portion of the land.

Council members Chris Moulton and Dennis Fleming were not present.

Council later delayed approval of developing the police impound yard, pending the outcome of the negotiations.

Police chief Bart Hinkle said police are not against being part of the larger lot - if the city buys it - but there are immediate needs for an impound yard.

"Currently we have them stored at various locations throughout the city," he said.

Hinkle also said $88,000 had already been budgeted for the project, and an additional $230,000 was pending approval in the city's 2017 budget.

Source: City of Valdez

Two views of the land the city is considering as a site for a new fire station and other facilities.

Needles thought the $230K number is too low.

Others worried about the esthetics of an impound yard.

"This is not a long-term storage of wrecked cars," Hinkle said.

Hinkle also said the police department does not oppose changing the yard's location closer to town.

"I just don't want to get lost in the shuffle," he said. "Rire stations are a lot more sexy."

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