Borough to list hospital property with a realtor pending investor interest

The assembly has approved an ordinance allowing the borough to list the former hospital property with a realtor for the value of the land, half the price of the previous minimum bid. However, Borough Manager Jeff Good told the assembly at its Dec. 20 meeting that he plans to delay listing the property while he negotiates with a potential investor.

The property was listed for its full appraised value of $830,000 — a price that encompassed the value of its land and building — on a public surplus website in April 2022. The borough, however, received no offers or inquiries through the website, according to borough documents.

The assembly authorized the borough to decrease the price to $470,000 in hopes of finding a buyer.

No community members commented at the public hearing on the ordinance to drop the asking price.

Good has been working with a prospective buyer and plans to update the assembly on the outcome of those discussions at the Jan. 10 or Jan. 24 assembly meeting. “We have had some interest from an investor in it,” he said. “I wanted to go through this process first to give us some options.” If the investor does not follow through, Good will move forward with the price-cut and real estate agent plan approved by the assembly.

Assemblymember Jim DeBord cast the only dissenting vote, raising concerns similar to the ones that prompted his “no” vote at the first reading of the ordinance on Nov. 22. At its reduced price, the property is “cheaper than a house in Wrangell right now,” he said. “I’m really concerned somebody is going to get in over their head, come in and strip it … to me it’s kind of a short-sighted solution.”

Good said he would ask the borough attorney about the legality of a purchase agreement, which would require a buyer to use the property for an economically beneficial purpose, like housing or industry.

“If somebody comes up with a plan and it’s an economical plan that’s going to put people to work in this town, I’m all for it,” said Assemblymember David Powell.

DeBord also emphasized the value of the building’s parts, many of which are expensive and highly specialized for its former use as a hospital. However, Capital Facilities Director Amber Al-Haddad cautioned the assembly against taking the building apart piecemeal. “If you begin to do that, you need a plan to take that building down,” she said. “Soon, you are going to be left with a building that is molding and falling apart and it will become a liability for this community.”

The last cost estimate for demolishing the building was close to $1.5 million. “That was three years ago,” said Al-Haddad. “Shipping costs have gone up.” Waste and debris from the demolished building would need to be shipped to an approved disposal site out of state.

The borough has been maintaining the property since SEARHC moved out almost two years ago into its new Wrangell Medical Center, returning the former hospital to the borough’s responsibility.

 

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