A $8.2 million deal to purchase and expand the former Sitka Community Hospital building will go before voters this fall, as an advisory question. When the Sitka Assembly met last night (8-24-21), it voted on first reading to sell the former Sitka Community Hospital building and properties to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). A second reading of the sale won’t happen until voters have their say in October.
$8.25 million– that’s SEARHC’s bid for the former Sitka Community Hospital building. The consortium now leases the building to house long term care, but buying the property is its first step toward a multi-million dollar overhaul. SEARHC plans to remodel the existing hospital building and expand its long term care unit. The consortium also plans to build a multi-family residential building with 28 apartments.
SEARHC representative Maegan Bosak said the bid was the only response to the city’s “request for proposals.”
“It is a staged approach, we plan to hopefully get started on the remodel process as soon as possible and complete the housing unit by December of 2024,” she said. “The project will include a budget of approximately $38 million so certainly would provide a boost to construction sites and sales tax within the community.”
The Assembly went behind closed doors for around an hour to consider the sale terms. When it returned, it moved to authorize a sale.
Only two members of the public commented on the motion. Nancy Yaw Davis said she was happy the Assembly was putting the decision out to the voters. But she wasn’t happy with the purchase price.
“I was insulted by the $8.2 million for a magnificent, huge hunk of our property,” she said.
During public comment, Richard Wein, said he was troubled to learn that the city and SEARHC hired the same appraiser to assess the property value.
“I’m gonna go to the library and rent deliverance because this is, woah, incestuous as they come,” he said.
Member Rebecca Himschoot asked about the property value appraisal, and who did the appraising. City Administrator Leach confirmed that the city and SEARHC hired the same person to appraise the property.
The city later issued a copy of the appraisal- view the appraisal here.
Member Valorie Nelson, who sponsored the measure to put the sale on the ballot, was still against the sale itself.
“As much as I’d like to vote yes, to make it go on to the public vote, I just have had the taste of ca-ca in my mouth since the very beginning of all this stuff going on,” she said. “I think that we’ve sold out our community.”
But other assembly members were in favor.
“I, on first reading will have no problem voting for this, because it will send it to a vote,” said Member Thor Christianson.
“I think it’s a fair offer, and it’s going to go to the public,” said Member Kevin Mosher. “This is not a perfect solution, but it’s an attempt to try to raise revenue so that we don’t have to keep taxing people as much to keep their quality of life better.”
Ultimately the assembly voted 6-1 in favor of the sale, with member Valorie Nelson opposed. The sale language will now appear on an advisory ballot question in the municipal election this October — but the assembly will not be bound by the outcome.
Update 9-28-21: This story was updated on 9-28-21 to include a link to the appraisal of the hospital property, which was released on the City of Sitka website following this meeting.