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School board leans toward exploring land sale

By Bob Steenson,

Members of the Charles City Board of Education seem to be leaning toward investigating the possibility of selling land that the school district had previously purchased for use as an athletic complex.

It has not yet been decided whether the school district will sell the property north of Washington Avenue and on the east side of Shadow Avenue, and the school board will decide at a future meeting whether to authorize the superintendent to begin investigating that possibility.

In January 2017, the school district purchased 20 acres of farmland from Bailey’s Nursery Co., previously known as Sherman Nursery. At that time the land was intended to be developed into, at minimum, a high school baseball diamond and a softball diamond to replace the current facilities at Sportsmen’s Park that are regularly flooded.

Since then, the school board has approved developing an athletic complex with the two ball diamonds on land it owns between the high school and the football field.

At a meeting in June, Superintendent Mike Fisher said he had heard that Bailey’s Nursery was interested in buying back the Shadow Avenue property.

The site is the middle of a larger parcel Bailey’s still owns and rents out as cropland.

At that June meeting, board members had a number of questions regarding a possible sale, including whether the district would have a future need for the land, and on the procedure to sell the property including whether Bailey’s could be given preference.

The board took no action at that time, and the topic was back on the agenda Tuesday evening.

Board member Jason Walker, who at the June meeting had said he had concerns regarding that property being part of a drainage district, said that no longer entered into his decision whether to sell the property.

He said he and board member Scott Dight had met with Floyd County Auditor Gloria Carr and found out that school district’s share of repair bills to tiles in the drainage district would be minor, as would the district’s share of reclassification costs if the district changed the use of the land.

“My takeaway from the conversation was that the drainage district issue, in my opinion, did not sway me one way or the other or was not particularly relevant in the discussion of whether we should sell the property or keep the property,” Walker said.

He said he didn’t have a strong preference for whether the district keeps or sells the property, but he could imagine a situation in the future where the district would have a use for it.

Board member Dight said he also didn’t have a strong opinion either way and would be willing to go along with whatever the rest of the board members wanted to do.

“I don’t see a dire need for keeping it, but I don’t see a dire need for selling it,” he said.

Board President Robin Macomber said she would like to find out whether Bailey’s Nursery wants the property back.

“They did us a favor by pulling that piece of property out for us. If they are interested I’d like to return the favor,” she said. Otherwise, if the company is not interested in buying back the property her preference would be to hold on to it, she said.

Director of Finance Terri O’Brien said the district “would need to do our due diligence to get the best price for the land that we can. That is a requirement.”

Also at the meeting Tuesday evening, the board:

• Approved a resolution to use SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) state sales tax revenue toward construction of the athletic facility near the high school. A public hearing had been held previously regarding this use of the funds. SAVE funds can only be used for infrastructure purposes. A significant part of the $2.3 million construction cost will be paid for with grants and donations.

• Approved the appointment of Brett Spurgin as middle school football coach, for $2,667; and Dan Klatt as TAP (Transition Alliance Program) coordinator; for $46,400.

• Approved stipends for nine beginning mentor teachers at $750 each and nine veteran mentor teachers at $500 each.

• Approved the transfer of Alison Reams from middle school instructional assistant to Washington instructional assistant.

• Was reminded that school begins on Friday, Aug. 23. All staff begins on Thursday, Aug. 15.