Togiak Refuge weighs options, including Carlson House property

Apr 14, 2016

The City Council gave the Refuge the go-ahead to make plans for building a new office on the Carlson property; meanwhile, the Refuge is trying to "exhaust efforts" to buy the building they're currently renting.

The Carlson property -- though not the original house itself -- could be the future site of the new Togiak National Wildlife Refuge office building.
Credit Hannah Colton/KDLG

After months of deliberation by the Carlson House Advisory Committee, the Dillingham City Council last week voted to lease the Carlson property to the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. But that may be a long ways off, as the Refuge tries to find the most cost-effective solution for its office space. 

The Togiak Refuge has for decades rented from Choggiung, Limited in a building that also houses the Dillingham Legislative Information Office and some other offices.

The rent is sky-high. Refuge Manager Susanna Henry says it's more than $11,000 a month – which is why Fish & Wildlife started looking at the Carlson House property as an alternative.

"So our intention was not to restore the entire old Carlson House, but to keep it on the property and build a new modern building on the property that meets our needs," explained Henry. She has a vision for the Carlson property that would include historical preservation of the original house, as well as inclusion of a Veteran’s Memorial, like other people in town had wanted.

But there’s one big hang-up in this plan: building a new structure will be very expensive. U.S. Fish and Wildlife would rather go with the (possibly) cheaper option of purchasing the building they’re currently renting. But Henry says it’s unclear whether Choggiung is willing to sell, and at what price.  

"We had an appraiser, a contracted appraiser, come out and look at this building and look at comparables," says Henry, "and they were frustrated in the effort. They were unable to get all the information they needed from Choggiung to get a fair appraisal."

Federal agencies are required to buy at “fair market value,” so without an appraisal, the Refuge can’t move forward. Choggiung, Ltd. did not respond to requests for comment on whether they are considering selling the building or not.

The Refuge has also looked at a third option – the old courthouse building – but that is also owned by Choggiung, and they’d need an appraisal there as well.

In the meantime, the City has asked the Refuge to draw up a plan for taking over the Carlson property, and present it to the City by the end of 2016.