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Wrangell’s borough assembly approved the $2.5 million purchase of the community’s former lumber mill site earlier this year. But whether or not the borough can turn around and lease or sell the 6-Mile Mill property is now up to Wrangell voters.
Proposition No. 3 on Wrangell’s October 4 ballot will ask voters whether or not they approve of the potential sale or lease of the former mill.
KSTK’s Sage Smiley sat down with Wrangell Borough Manager Jeff Good to talk about Proposition 3.
KSTK (Sage Smiley): Thanks so much for joining me today to talk about Proposition No. 3. Could you tell me a bit about what it is?
JEFF GOOD: So Prop. 3 basically allows us either lease or sell the Mill Property. We purchased that not too long ago, but the goal was never really to keep it long-term as far as us using it, it’s more of getting it back out to the public so that it has some economic development. Whether that’s in the terms of a lease or in terms of selling the property, that’s what we’ll need to figure out. But because the value [of the property] is over $1 million, it has to go to the public for a vote to allow us to be able to do that. So we wanted to get it on this ballot, so that we wouldn’t have to wait a year, so that if someone does come in and makes an offer on it, it’ll give the borough the authority to be able to go through and either lease or sell it. But before any of that happens, [we] just want to make sure everyone knows that our goal is not not to do anything right away, we want to make sure that it does go through an Economic Development Committee, that the public has some say in what that property is going to turn into. And I think that kind of speaks to long term, what do we want that property to look like? Do we want it to be light industrial? Do we want it to be tourism? None of those decisions have been made, and we want, obviously, community input for that. But what this will allow us to do is to start that process. Once we get that approval, then we can start that process to figure out what that property is going to look like.
KSTK: Totally. So just to go back and make these things very clear: Why does this have to go before the public at all? Why is this on the ballot? Why does it have to go before voters?
GOOD: Right. So per our code, and per the charter, any property over $1 million, we have to put that out to a vote of the people for the borough to sell it or to lease it. Per the code we and charter we have to do that. If it’s approved, then that will allow us to be able to go out and either lease it or to sell it.
KSTK: Are there plans already in place for lease or sale?
GOOD: There’s not. We are working on – and it’ll be on the next assembly meeting [agenda] – a temporary use agreement with Channel Construction, because they’re currently doing some scrap metal operations out there right now. So that will allow us to at least work with them temporarily, to do something. But there is nothing else planned right now. It just will give us the authority to be able to [lease or sell in the future].
KSTK: Do you feel like there are misconceptions about this measure going around town? Are you getting questions where you’re like: ‘Oh, no, no, no, that’s not what’s happening,’ And if so, what are those? And then what is the answer to those?
GOOD: I mean, the question I did receive is, ‘Why does it have to go out to a vote?’ And again, it’s that million-dollar threshold for the value of the property, and it’s in our charter. So that’s the biggest question that I’ve got. And then ‘Why now’ has been another question. And that’s that if we don’t do it now in this upcoming election, we would have to wait another year for it to come back up on the ballot again. We only have elections once a year and voting once a year, so it would basically restrict anything we did for the next year on being able to do something from an economic development standpoint. And right now, I mean, I think economic development is kind of critical moving forward, and I think as a community, we’ve got to kind of figure out: ‘What do we look like 10,15, 20 years from now?’ So that’s really the focus: how do we develop it? What is it going to look like? And then what are we going to look like as a community?
KSTK: What happens if it doesn’t pass? Is there a backup plan in place, or is it just to bring it back next year?
GOOD: I think there’ll be two plans that we would [have]. One would be, obviously, to bring it back next year. The other plan – we would have to split the property up into smaller pieces, which is not what we wanted to do. I mean, the whole goal was to have a bigger piece of property for better economic development. So we would have to split that property up into small, smaller chunks less than a million dollars, and then do something with it that way, whether that’s leasing the smaller portions, leasing the buildings, selling different pieces of property – but I don’t think that’s the goal of the assembly is to break it up into smaller pieces, it would be nice to do something wholesale with the property and look for what’s the best value best benefit to the public in general.
KSTK: Where should voters go for information, if they have other questions? Or if there’s anything else you want to add that we haven’t touched on about this proposition?
GOOD: They can always call us at City Hall for any questions that they may have (907-874-2381). And then we did include this [proposition] as part of – we’re going to have a meeting on Wednesday (September 28) to go through and if the public has any questions, they’re more than welcome to come to that event. We’d love to have them there to ask those questions to be able to clarify anything that they have.
KSTK: Great, thanks very much for your time.
GOOD: Alright, thanks.
Wrangell officials have scheduled a town meeting to discuss all three ballot propositions on Wrangell’s municipal ballot this year. That includes Proposition 3, as well as two bond measures. That meeting will take place starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday (September 28) at the Nolan Center.
Get in touch with KSTK at email@example.com or (907) 874-2345.