When is best time to sell school district property?

By MaryHelen Swanson—

When the North Branch school board meets next Thursday, the members will discuss the demise of the Main Street School property which could hold the promise of a nice windfall in the future, or a solution for current deficit needs.

At at working session last week, local realtors Brian Richards and Tom O’Hern reported that they had looked over the recent appraisal and even though the Main Street property is unique, at this time they figure it is worth in the range of $350,000.

They looked at properties on the market in the city and at those that have recently sold.  Property in the local industrial park is selling for $1.35/ sq. ft. they said. The slow economy still has a grip on the value of property in North Branch.

Some months ago, Superintendent Deb Henton apprised the board of a prospective buyer looking to purchase half of the school property on which to build a dollar store.

Richards told the board that what you put on one half of the property determines what will go on the other half.

He advised that it is not prudent to split the property as it will reduce the value and there would be added legal costs in the splitting thus reducing the profit.

Theoretically was a word used much that night.

Board member Randy Westby tossed out an idea he said he and a NB city council person had discussed, that being a trade with the city – the school property for Central Park.

It’s just an idea, he stressed, but he felt that the value of the Central Park property would be better for commercial development than the school property.

Supt. Henton noted that the district did offer the school property to the city for $1, when the school building was still on it. And the city did not want it.

She also noted that the dollar store developer is still interested in the property, the whole piece.

She asked the board for direction, do you want to put it on the market, do you want to meet with other realtors, she asked.

Board member Trent Jensen felt the school district should hold on to the property and wait for a stronger market.

In that light, and to keep the property looking good, Henton noted that the new general manager of NB Water and Light has approved the use of water from the hydrant to keep the grass green on the property.

Board member Jay Falk said he’s heard business people would like it sold with commercial development on it to increase the tax base, but he was torn and agreed with Jensen about waiting for a stronger market.

Member John White said the district should not put it on the market now. It’s an attractive piece of property he said, being very adaptable and already having city utilities to it.

Westby said at $350,000, the district would be better off sitting on the property. He kind of liked the idea of a trade.

Member Kirby Ekstrom thinks it should be on the market at a higher price and if someone wants it at that price, they’ll pay it. He suggested getting a realtor lined up.

The board directed the superintendent to make an offer to the dollar store man and if he didn’t want it, then get a local realtor and proceed.

Westby stressed that his “trade” idea was just an idea someone brought to him. Henton said she would call City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad.

Also on the agenda May 10, will be adoption of the school calendar for 2012-13, and possibly more discussion on Policy 524 – Internet/Technology Acceptable Use and Safety.

The concern among two school board members is that it is too broad and infringes on individuals’ rights.

After lengthy discussion, Supt. Henton became frustrated. She noted that a significant amount of time, and essentially money, has been spent on reviewing and considering changes to this policy. It was the same for the policy on tobacco use.

She apprised the board that the district has 97 policies that have not been reviewed since 1994.

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