Wrangell’s government is trying to sell the former community hospital and surrounding property, but that’s easier said than done.
When Wrangell’s new medical center opened early last year, the local government was left with a problem – what to do with the old hospital building and surrounding land.
Finding a solution hasn’t proved simple. The borough opened the nearly 85,000-square-foot property to sealed bids in June, but didn’t receive a single offer.
At the borough assembly’s meeting on July 26, Wrangell’s borough manager Jeff Good proposed to list the property with an agent, someone who could better advertise the old hospital and surrounding land.
“[The property is for sale] over the counter on our website. So it’s not really – there’s no advertisement or anything else being done anywhere else, just if someone goes to our website, then they can bid on it. So our recommendation is to try to list it with a real estate agent and to get it out there, let them do the work,” Good explained. “There will be a cost associated with it as far as doing any type of percentage of the real estate fees associated with it. But let me say right now we are spending money on this facility to maintain it.”
Good told assembly members that between insurance, inspections, heating so the building doesn’t mold and doing basic maintenance, the borough spends $80- to $100,000 a year on the old medical center. About half of that is spent on heating fuel alone. And that concerned Mayor Steve Prysunka.
“There’s no department in there. We’re not storing stuff in there. And we’re spending $40,000 a year to keep that place warm,” Prysunka said, adding that the heating cost may go up this coming winter with inflated fuel prices. But he disagreed with the idea of spending money on a realtor.
“Unless we’re really thinking that somebody from out of town […] is going to go ‘Hot damn, an old hospital,’ then why would we corner ourselves away like that?” Prysunka asked.
He said he supported an idea floated by assembly member David Powell – list the property on an online auction site. It’s a strategy that the borough has successfully used to auction other properties, but not on the scale of the hospital.
Months ago, borough staff had proposed using the auction site to sell the old hospital, but the idea was tabled in favor of accepting sealed bids.
Prysunka said regardless of what way the borough is selling the property, it needs to be active in trying to find potential buyers or partners for the facility. Here he is in an exchange with assembly member Patty Gilbert.
“We may need to kind of scheme and find people who might be interested in that facility,” Prysunka said. “I know we had some people that were interested at one point, but we may have to reach out and try to find a future tenant,” adding: “We need to get rid of this thing. We’ve got to get rid of this, and at this point, I’m about ready to say ‘Who wants it?’”
“That’s not really a selling point,” commented assembly member Patty Gilbert.
“No,” Prysunka admitted, “But we need to move this along. It’s costing us $80,000 a year. It won’t take long for me to say: ‘Why don’t we sell it for $200,000 and move this along?”
Wrangell’s borough clerk says the former Wrangell Medical Center building and surrounding land will be listed on the local public surplus site, at a starting bid of $830,000. If, after some time, the borough still hasn’t received any bids, borough manager Good may return to the assembly and ask for a lower starting price.
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