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

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Three-year standstill on Aleutian Village has left residents in limbo

City management says positive change could be in the future for park residents

 

August 1, 2018

Steven Weber photo

A group of Aleutian Village residents gather outside and discuss issues in the mobile home park.

Almost three years after a threatened mass eviction, residents of a mobile home park are still waiting for answers.

"There are two people who are interested in becoming involved in buying the property," Elke Doom, Valdez city manager, said during the July 17 city council meeting. "This is potentially a very positive thing for those owners to have someone come in there and really help improve the park with water and sewer."

Residents of the park are skeptical.

It is difficult to tell if those interested in purchasing the park will provide a solution for owners and residents who have been left hanging since the park's current owner, the Aleut Corporation, announced in 2015 its intentions to close the park and sent mobile home owners eviction notices.

Doom stated in an emailed question that she was not given information about the potential purchasers. Additionally, when the Aleut Corporation was contacted, they would neither confirm nor deny that potential purchasers did in fact exist.

Many mobile home owners in Aleutian Village have delayed basic maintenance on their homes and potential buyers, on the other hand, are wary of purchasing a home in the trailer park with its uncertain future - further dropping property values.

The Aleut Corporation has an enforceable lease contract with the land's owners – Alaska Dept. of Transportation - through 2060.

The corporation later rescinded the eviction notices in a letter to residents, but stated it planned to restart the clock with a new eviction notice in the future; no new eviction notice has issued as of July, 2018.

The city has failed to come up with a long-term solution for Aleutian Village, which has caused further frustration for the park's residents. This, despite efforts that included potential plans to create a subdivision on the land, efforts to obtain federal redevelopment grants and spending on a detailed survey of the demographics of the park's residents.

Numerous meetings about the potential of roughly 200 residents being mass evicted were conducted by city administration or the Valdez City Council from August 2015 - June 2017 - with no verifiable traction made.

The city took steps towards purchasing the land Aleutian Village sits on from the State of Alaska so that the city could hold the Aleut Corporation legally responsible to the lease, but for reasons unknown, the land was not purchased after it was professionally assessed at an estimated price of $555,000, about $15,963 per acre.

City officials did, however, make priorities and promises for the residents. On September 21, 2015 former interim city manager Robert Jean wrote a letter to the editor of the Valdez Star. In his letter, Jean stated, "The city intends to hold the Aleut Corporation responsible for meeting all of its lease, contract and code responsibilities."

It is unknown to what degree the city is planning to fulfill the statement by Jean, as nearly three years later, the utilities in the park are not yet up to city code.

Former community development director Lisa Von Bergen stated in the last work session, held in May 2017, that the Aleut Corporation intended to close the park, but was willing to put the matter on the back burner while the city and the park's residents found a solution to managing the park.

"It is still their intention to close the park but they don't know when," Von Bargen said. "It doesn't meet their strategic business plan so they are prepared to get out of the lease."

Since the eviction notice was served on residents, the Aleut Corporation has reportedly been seeking a buyer for the park.

As the city continues to search and deliberate solutions, residents are unsure how to best maintain their homes, given the uncertainty.

"How are we supposed to invest in fixing up our properties over the summer when we do not know if we will have to vacate the following summer?" asked one resident who gathered at the park recently to discuss the ongoing uncertainty.

Steven Weber photo

Another stated, "It does not seem the city has made any meaningful progress towards a solution despite all of the meetings and surveys."

Some residents have moved their mobile homes, while others believe their homes are too old to survive a trip elsewhere. Others have sold at a loss.

Former Aleutian resident Kori Ragan, who in 2015 told the Valdez Star she planned to continue living in the park for another four or five years, sold her trailer last spring and left her job with the school district, where she worked as a payroll specialist. Ragan's plan as reported in 2015 was to work in Valdez for another four or five years.

She managed to sell her mobile home earlier this year – at a loss.

 

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