School board votes 5-2 to buy armory

The Greene County Schools board approved purchasing the former National Guard armory for use as a bus garage, but some negotiating will be needed on the sale.

The school board approved the purchase by a 5-2 vote at its Nov. 21 regular meeting, but the terms are not the same as those in the purchase agreement approved by the county supervisors by a 4-1 vote earlier that day.

Both boards agreed to $250,000 as the price, but the supervisors’ version states the building is being sold “as is”, while the school board’s motion stated that the sale was contingent on major utilities working.

The larger area of concern is the boiler system in the 1965 building. It has not been used since 2010. Building/grounds/transportation Wayne Hougham told the board it had been winterized before it was shut down, but he hadn’t checked whether it still functions.

County engineer Wade Weiss has said hanging heaters in the building are functional.

John McConnell and Ashley Johnston cast the dissenting votes.

McConnell said purchasing the building was a good idea a year ago when it was first mentioned, but the recent vote to close the intermediate school in Grand Junction and uncertainty about utilities make it a bad time to purchase the building.

“I think it’s a bad idea. It’s poor timing. As a representative for the community, the community is not happy, and we’re going to lose precious bond votes if we purchase the building. I can guarantee that,” McConnnell said.

Johnston agreed. “I just don’t think the timing is good, two weeks after we closed a building. That’s a kick in the shins to Grand Junction, in particular. I was all for it a year ago, but some things have changed,” she said.

Board members Mark Peters and Sam Harding advocated for the purchase. Discussion of purchasing the armory started when the Fair Association, which has rented space for bus storage at the fairgrounds for many years, increased the rent to $21,000 per year and limited access to space the school has previously used.

Peters estimated it would take the district 12 to 14 years to break even on the purchase, even considering an estimated $15,000 in improvements McConnell said were needed (garage door openers and plug-ins for bus heaters). “The school district is going to be here a long time. I look at it as an opportunity to save some money over the long run,” Peters said.

Funding for the purchase will come from physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) funds, not the district’s general fund. The decision to close the intermediate school was based on a need to show the state Department of Education a good effort to stay within the state allowed spending authority in the general fund.

“The community needs to understand that there are two different funding streams. We deal with the general fund and we deal with PPEL funds, and you can’t mix them and match them. You can’t use one for the other. I think we’ve made it abundantly clear that the funding streams are different,” Peters said.

“If it was a good idea a year ago because it made sense money-wise, it’s still a good idea. That hasn’t changed,” Harding said. “I understand the timing is weird, but it’s either that or spend just as much at the fairgrounds and have nothing.”

Board member Mike Dennhardt said he is nervous not knowing for certain that the boiler works. “I think it’s a good deal. I think it’s a no-brainer. You can’t keep renting for $21,000. The only thing that scares me a little is what we might have to put into it,” Dennhardt said.

The new location would have easier access and better security than the current location, Peters and Harding noted.

No members of the public spoke on the topic at the meeting. The school was not required to hold a public hearing on the purchase.

The school district’s lease at the fairgrounds ends June 30. The purchase agreement calls for a July 3 closing date on the sale.

 

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