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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New fire station one step closer to reality with city's land purchase

Council approved sale but it is conditional after an environmental assessment


October 4, 2017

A new fire station is closer to becoming a reality, but questions remain after city council conditionally approved a contract to purchase Gavora property.

The resolution authorizing the deal states a purchase price of $975,000.

"I feel its the best path forward," council member Nate Smith said before the council vote during the council's first meeting in September.

City administrators have struggled to find a potential home for a new fire station since former fire chief George Keeney reported to council back in 2015 that the current main station located in the old section of city hall was contaminated with mold and portions of the station had been sealed off to prevent air born health problems.

Council members Jim Shirrell, Chris Moulton and Mayor Ruth Knight voted against granting approval to move forward with the deal.

"What are the real costs of buying this property?" Shirrell asked before the votes were cast. " Its not 975."

Shirrell was not impressed that city manager Elke Doom had negotiated the asking price of $1.3 million down to the appraised price of $975,000, as she was directed to do by council during meetings this year on the potential deal.

He called the purchase price "no big win" because he felt the city did not have enough information regarding development costs for adding roads, utilities and other needs.

"I have no idea what a road or utilities may be," he said.

The city will be on the hook for closing costs such as closing fees and escrow insurance. The purchase agreement also states that the city will absolve the owners from 2017 property taxes - around $4,000.

"There's costs to this that far exceeds a million bucks," Shirrell said. "What are those costs?"

The contract offers an escape clause: the city has 60 days to inspect the property and do environmental assessments it could not do without owning the property to determine if the land is actually suitable for a new fire station and its other potential purposes before the deal will be sealed.

Graphic courtesy City of Valdez

A rough outline of the area and surrounding properties

"We can cancel the contract," Knight said, adding later "We'd still have the costs for doing that."

Council member Nate Smith said that rough estimates for road development were about $1.1 million - per mile.

Moulton said that by some estimates, only about four acres of land would be made available for sale to the public by the city if all the suggested uses for the approximately 15 acres come to fruition.

Council had agree previously - by consensus - to sell any land it does not develop.

"This could really open up some land for future use," council member Lon Needles said.


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