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School board discusses former athletic field land options

By Bob Steenson,

Now that the Charles City School District is building a new baseball and a softball diamond near the high school, what should it do with the property it purchased for a new athletic complex north of the city?

In January 2017, the school district had purchased 20 acres of farmland north of Washington Elementary School and east of Shadow Avenue from Bailey’s Nursery Co., previously known as Sherman Nursery, thinking that would be the site of its new baseball and softball fields.

But earlier this year, citing lower overall costs and a quicker development timeline, the Board of Education switched directions and approved development of the diamonds at the 5-12 campus — the term the district uses for the area where the high school and middle school are located.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Mike Fisher said he had been having very informal, very preliminary talks regarding Bailey’s Nursery buying back the property.

Additionally, Fisher said, another private citizen had approached him with some interest in purchasing the property, although that discussion hadn’t gotten as far as with Bailey’s Nursery.

School board member Jason Walker said it would only be fair to give Bailey’s the right of first refusal on a purchase if the district decides to sell the property.

“The fact that they up front were willing to work with us to give us an opportunity to purchase that property to develop it, we substantially owe it to them to help with that,” Walker said.

“Virtually no other farmer around here in their right mind would allow us to take out 20 acres in the middle of their property and split the property up. It completely changes the integrity of the property as a whole, so we owe it to them to make it right if that’s the case before we were to sell it to someone else,” Walker said.

Board member Josh Mack said he agreed with that sentiment, but he wanted to make sure the board acted legally if it decided to sell the property.

“When we dispose of property we’re supposed to get competitive bids for it,” Mack said.

Also, he added, the district shouldn’t be in a hurry to sell the property. It may not see a need for it right now, but that could change in the future.

The land is currently being used by FFA students for farming practices, Fisher said, but he said he had talked with FFA advisor Jim Lundberg and Lundberg said the program had other places it could use, including land at the fairgrounds.

Board member Scott Dight said if the district has no use for the property, selling it would put it back on the property tax rolls, although he said the taxes on 20 acres of ag land are not huge.

Fisher said the next step if the board wants to do something about the property would be to pass a resolution or give him direction to start formal action regarding a sale.

“Everything up this point has just been informal conversation about having conversations and nothing has happened thus far,” he said.
The topic was listed only as a discussion item on the school board’s agenda, and the board took no action on the subject.

Also at the meeting Monday evening:

• Board member Dight reported that the district continues to work with TLC: The Learning Center leadership team regarding the possibility of relocating its child care services into the 1970s portion of the old middle school building.

“They are working hard to reach out to anybody and everybody in their efforts to find funding and partnerships and collaboration” to make the move possible, Dight said. “Their timeline right now is next summer to move in.”

• The board held a public hearing regarding expending funds from the district’s flexibility account. After receiving no comments, the board approved the expenditure of $69,432 for beautification/signage; radios and repeater; facility assessment; high school copier; furniture at the high school, middle school, Lincoln and Washington; and an auditorium microphone system.

• Approved the contract for educational services with North Iowa Area Community College.

• Approved the 2019-20 substitute teacher pay rate of $110 per day, an increase of $5.

• Approved the following personnel changes:

— Appointed Cami Crawford-Miller as sixth grade ELA teacher.

— Added additional stipends for Naomi Yaddof for Future Business Leaders America, $438; and David Voves, National honor Society, $438 for 2017-18, $453 for 2018-19, and $453 for 2019-20.

— Approved a one-year administrator agreement with Kara Shannon.