Aleutian borough aims to sell King Cove school

Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2005

ANCHORAGE - A school for sale in King Cove could find its way to eBay if a buyer is not found soon.

The Aleutians East Borough is building a new school on high ground in the Alaska Peninsula port city and the old school must go, borough administrator Bob Juettner said. If he doesn't get an offer soon, the 47,000-square-foot facility could be offered on the online auction service.

"Why not?" he said. "The state sold the ferry that way, though I'd like to do better than the state did."

The school has 17 rooms, four bathrooms, a library, gym and an ocean view on more than three acres. The asking price is $2.8 million.

State property managers in 2003 listed the ferry Bartlett on the online auction service and drew a top bid of nearly $390,000.

In many communities, old schools are rebuilt, or they're handed down and reused. State regulations also allow districts to sell or lease school buildings for which they hold the title. Some are sold for a nominal fee to become community centers or libraries.

A $1 sale remains an option in King Cove but Juettner hopes to fetch the most possible to help the borough pay for the old school's replacement.

The existing elementary school was built around 1980 on the spit that slices into King Cove. A high school constructed around 1987 connects to the elementary by a covered boardwalk. Both buildings are in good shape, said principal Herman Gerving, if a bit weathered by salt air.

But if a big tsunami rolled into King Cove, the low-lying school would in its path, as would everything else on the spit, including the Peter Pan Seafoods plant, homes and businesses.

The new school is about a mile away, built well above the tsunami zone on a southwest-facing hillside that overlooks King Cove and Deer Passage. In the same neighborhood are a new community center, health clinic and residential subdivisions.

Work on the new school began this spring and should be done by the start of school in 2006.

Since the design was approved, building material costs have jumped about 20 percent, according to Juettner. The borough responded by cutting $1 million from the project and borrowing another $1.8 million from reserves to complete the job.

If the old school can be sold for $2.8 million, "It will make us whole again," Juettner said.

He's optimistic a buyer will surface, in large part because of a transportation project linking King Cove with neighboring Cold Bay and its bigger and more reliable airport. When the new road-hovercraft connection opens next year, it should permit daily air service between seafood-rich King Cove and markets in Anchorage and beyond.

A fisheries business is the most likely school buyer, Juettner said. In a town that was founded in 1911 by a salmon cannery and still relies on salmon, halibut, cod, crab and other seafood as its economic mainstay, "It just makes sense," he said.

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