Borough purchase of old mill property delayed by lien against owner

Closing on the borough’s $2.6 million purchase of the 39-acre former sawmill property at 6 Mile has been delayed until June 20, Borough Manager Jeff Good said June 1, the day the sale was supposed to close.

The sale is delayed until the seller can resolve a contractor lien on the property.

William “Shorty” Tonsgard Jr., owner of Channel Construction, a scrap metal collection company that runs a barge south for disposal or recycling, on March 18 filed a $701,654 lien against Kelso, Washington-based DB AK Enterprises, owned by Betty Buhler, who is selling the property to the borough.

Channel Construction said it disassembled and recycled a barge at the property as contracted by DB AK, and is owed for the work.

Both Tonsgard and his attorney, Jim Clark, of Juneau, declined comment June 1.

“The official details between Shorty (Tonsgard) and Betty (Buhler) are unclear to me,” Bennett McGrath, broker and owner at Petersburg-based Anchor Properties, which is representing Buhler in the sale, said last Friday. “I don’t really know on the actual contractual obligation between those two parties.”

Good said he was aware a lien was a possibility. “When we did the title search and the lien search, it came up — you never know what you’re going to find, but we had heard rumors. So it didn’t take us by too much surprise.”

Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore said, “They had an agreement at some point, to that I cannot really tell you. I haven’t been privy to any of the conversations between them.”

The closing date on the borough’s purchase was extended to June 20 to give more time for the engineering review of the site, which could be presented to the assembly at its June 14 meeting, Good said, as well as to give time for Buhler and Tonsgard to work out their issues.

“Our offer is our offer, so we’re not going to do anything out of our offer,” Good said. “That would be between the two parties involved, it wouldn’t involve us.”

Buhler instructed Lief Larsson, owner at adjacent Larsson Storage, and the property site manager, to lock the gates on Tonsgard’s business a couple of weeks ago. Until then, Tonsgard was collecting scrap metal around for disposal.

“I learned about it end of last week,” Public Works Director Tom Wetor said Friday. “He (Tonsgard) is trying to work through that and is hopeful to maintain his operation, and is not currently able to operate right now.”

Good last Wednesday said the sale is “looking promising, but until everything is signed and paid for, I don’t guarantee anything.”


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