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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New fire station plans move forward slowly as land purchase delayed

A million dollar price tag raises eyebrows among some city council members


Source: City of Valdez

A map of the area under consideration for purchase by the City of Valdez.

Plans to buy land for a new fire station are on hold.

"We're not in a hurry to do this," council member Darren Reese said a week ago Tuesday before the Valdez City Council postponed its vote that would have directed the city manager, Elke Doom, to proceed with negotiations to purchase a 14-plus acre tract of land for $1 million.

The asking price by the owners is $1.3 million. The appraised value of the land is $975,000.

The acreage sits between the Alaska Dept. of Transportation facility on the Richardson Highway and Eagles Rest RV Park, running back towards city owned land where the hospital sits.

City administrators backing the buy say the acreage is needed for the future home an impound yard for Valdez police, snow storage, and other needs. Foremost is the need for a new fire station.

"That's what we're looking at this property for," Doom said during the debate between council members before postponing the matter.

Mold issues were discovered last year in the old portion of city hall where the fire department now sits.

Over the course of several months, the need for more space for other city departments became apparent and council has agreed in principal to move forward with building a new fire department. Tentative plans call for the old space to be remediated or rebuilt to allow city departments that are now housed at the airport building to move back to city hall.

Some council members balked at paying $25,000 over the appraised value of the land or favor finding another site on land already owned by the city.

"I look at that parcel and I don't see a million dollars." council member Jim Shirrell said.

He also felt it was unwise to purchase the land before the city has a more concrete plan for its use.

"If somebody were to bring me a plan, then by all means it will have my support," he said.

Council members Nate Smith and Darren Reese supported moving forward with the purchase.

"This is the best location for the fire station," Smith said.

Reese noted that the land is already plotting for essentials such as streets, and that the land has sat undeveloped for fifty years so the notion that private enterprise will develop the land is iffy at best. He also noted the museum is in the process of trying to build a new facility and that this additional acreage could easily include a site for a new facility.

"In my mind this has my support," council member Dennis Fleming said, noting a plan is essential before moving forward with an actual purchase.

Doom said the city's current intention - if the land is eventually purchased - is to keep the current plotting on the property and to put the excess plots up for sale to the public that are not used for city infrastructure.

The matter is expected to be on the council's agenda for it's June 20 meeting, with an amendment that will direct the city manager to proceed with the sale at the appraised value. Some council members indicated that the matter will no be voted on unless all members of the council are present for the vote.

The sale cannot proceed above the appraised value unless six members of the council give consent.

Some council members also requested a work session with more information and additional development plans for a new fire station before voting on the matter. Further postponement on the purchase is likely.

"We'll do our best to pull everything together," Doom said.


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