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School district reluctantly amends contract with city for property

September 1, 2008

Property sold by city for $1 causes some controversy

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

Members of the Delano School Board reviewed minor changes to the agreement for the purchase of 5.84 acres of land by the school district from the city for $1 for future building construction at its regular school board meeting last Monday.

Superintendent Dr. John Sweet also explained there is interest from the city that, in the event the school district does not build a classroom structure on the site in 20 years, the land could go back to the city.

“This took us a bit by surprise,” Sweet said, but added the council said it wants a school building built on that site.

School Board Member Becky Schaust, saying she was playing “devil’s advocate,” said if future school boards may change direction and perhaps want to utilize the land for a performing arts center or something of that nature instead of classroom buildings – it wouldn’t be possible the way the amendment was worded.

“I’m a little concerned and a little bit disappointed the city would again come up with an eleventh hour change that we have to agree to,” Schaust said.

Sweet said he did not think the board necessarily had to agree to the amendment to the contract. Schaust said she would be more inclined to be accepting of this if it was not restrictive to a classroom structure.

Schaust made a motion to amend the amendment, which was seconded by Board Member Sarah Gallagher, striking the words that said the building “shall be used to educate students in kindergarten and/or grades 1-12.”

Further discussing the issue, Board Member Tim Douglas expressed frustration with the situation.

“I think the city ought to take the other two,” Douglas said, referring to the two properties known as the Lundeen and Althoff properties recently purchased by the district along with the 5.84 acres from the city. Douglas felt the city should be willing to purchase the other two properties the school district acquired for future expansion if the city decided to take back the property in 20 years.

“We get nothing out of this – give us something,” he said, adding taxpayers will pay for the land either way.

“This land is for a school building to be built,” said Board Chairman Peter Brasket. “We don’t want to appear the school is backpeddling in any way.”

Douglas then made a motion to further amend the amendment to state the city would have to purchase the other two properties at fair market value at the district’s discretion if the city decides to exercise its option in 20 years to take back the piece of land it is in the process of selling to the school district. This was seconded by Schaust.

Following more discussion, Sweet suggested a roll call vote be taken for approval of the amendments to the original amendment, with Douglas’ amendment being voted on first, stating that in the event the city exercises its option to get back the property after 20 years, that the city will buy the other two properties at a fair market value at the district’s discretion. This motion passed 6-0. Board Member Lorrie Mulholland was absent from the meeting.

On a second roll call vote, the board voted on Schaust’s amendment, removing the words that said the building “shall be used to educate students in kindergarten and/or grades 1-12.”

The item passed on a 5-1 vote, with Brasket voting no.

Discussion about communication between the city and school district also took place, with board members feeling communication could be better.

“We just need to talk to them (city representatives),” Brasket said.

When it came time to vote on the original amendment, with the additions that had been previously approved by the board, the motion passed on a 5-1 vote, with Douglas voting against it.

“I’m opposed to the whole thing,” Douglas said after voting.

Several other minor language changes were noted in the agreement and approved as part of the motion, including setting the closing date as Monday, Sept. 15.

“This discussion the school board had was representative of various opinions of the issue, and during that debate, the various opinions were addressed and that’s the outcome,” Sweet said after the meeting, adding he’s “not sure where it goes from here.”

He said he had not yet spoken with city representatives regarding the issue, and said he did not know if the city is going to accept what was done.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• approved a two-year contract with its administrative assistants group at a 13 percent increase over two years. The wage increase is 3 percent a year, and Sweet said the rest is made up in insurance/benefit costs.

The board also approved a two-year contract with Stahlke Bus for transportation services. For the first year of the contract, there will be a 3.85 percent increase, and for the second, there will be either a 3 percent increase or the an increase at rate of inflation, whichever is less.

Sweet noted the district and transportation company also split the cost of fuel 50/50 at anything above $2 per gallon.

Negotiations are still in progress with the School Service Employees Union for custodians and maintenance employees.

• accepted the resignations of Lanette Faul as National Honor Society advisor, Lynn Phillips as middle school paraprofessional, and Theresa Schlosser as high school dishwasher.

The board also approved the hiring recommendations of Mark Hemingway as a grades five through eight vocal music instructor; Caroline McCoy as National Honor Society advisor; Kimberly Muckenhirn as a high school special education paraprofessional, replacing Jean Kopp who resigned; and Jesse Hackenmueller as junior high boys soccer coach, replacing Nathan Kennedy.

A family leave of absence was also approved for high school/middle school physical education teacher Maria Menz from Oct. 1 through Dec. 3.

• approved revisions to its facility use policy and also the fee schedule.

• discussed having a liaison to the city to the city’s performing arts task force meetings. Board Member Carolyn Milano volunteered to attend the meetings.

• approved an addendum to the Wright Technical Center joint powers agreement in connection with building improvements at the technical center, located in Buffalo.

Julie Warner, the executive director of the center, addressed the board about a building addition, as well as renovation that would shift the focal point of the building from Highway 25 to Third Avenue due to highway construction.

The center will be adding 13,650 square feet of space that will include five new classrooms. There will also be improvements to the parking lot and entrance change to the building.

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