The Sitka Assembly hosted a town hall this week to hear feedback on the potential sale of the former Sitka Community Hospital building.
City Administrator John Leach led the meeting in the auditorium at Harrigan Centennial Hall on Tuesday (3-16-21). The meeting was sparsely attended, but most of those who testified opposed selling the Sitka Community Hospital Building.
“I’m sorry, it’s a city property, it’s owned by the citizens. Any decisions made about that property needs to come to a vote,” said Karen Lucas said, who called for a public vote and added that the building could be used for other city purposes. “We’re cutting ourselves off at the neck to sell any city property.”
The city sold the business to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium two years ago, and SEARHC currently leases the building to house its long-term care unit. SEARHC expressed interest in purchasing the building last fall, with plans to make a significant investment in the building as it gears up for a multi-million dollar hospital expansion project. The assembly will likely put the property up for competitive bid later this spring.
City code used to require a public vote on the sale of any property valued over $500,000, but the 2018 assembly changed that rule, replacing it with an optional ‘advisory vote’ of the public, that would be non-binding. Earlier this month, the assembly voted to hold town halls to gather public input, in lieu of an ‘advisory vote.’
Tuesday’s town hall was not the final opportunity to give feedback on the sale. The city has created a digital survey to gather feedback, and another town hall is scheduled for March 30.