North Routt school sale up for vote

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A proposal to purchase the North Routt Community Charter School property is expected to go to a vote tonight when the Education Fund Board meets in Steamboat Springs.

The vote will come exactly one month after the Steamboat Springs School Board rejected a $265,000 gift from the Fund Board that would have allowed the school district to purchase the land. School Board members cited a variety of reasons for their decision, including a legal opinion that stated the district wouldn't be able to charge the charter school rent for facility use and the inability to make district ownership of the Clark property cost-neutral.

The School Board's decision could influence Fund Board members, Fund Board President Jim Gill said Tuesday.

But an informal poll held at the Fund Board's last meeting indicated a majority of the group's 13 members would support Fund Board ownership of the property if the School Board refused district ownership.

"I don't know if that's changed since the School Board (rejected the money to purchase the property)," Gill said. "Now the question is whether those votes will still be there."

The issue of the potential land acquisition came to the Fund Board earlier this spring from its Capital Commission, which was approached by Elk River Eagles, an investment group that owns the land, about the possibility of purchasing it in conjunction with a historical preservation grant.

The property, which has an appraised value of $450,000, includes three buildings -- a teacherage, the North Routt Community Charter School's main school facility and another multi-purpose building.

An investment group called Elk River Eagles is asking $365,000 for the property. A $100,000 historical preservation grant would drop the purchase price to $265,000. But the grant expires July 15, and tonight's vote may be Elk River Eagles last opportunity to sell the property to a buyer who can take advantage of the grant.

Some have said the future of the school could depend on the successful sale of the property on which it operates. Elk River Eagles reportedly wants to sell the property because several of its investors need to liquidate their holdings. Fred Wolf, managing partner of Elk River Eagles, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Steamboat Superintendent Donna Howell said North Routt school officials told her they have a secondary option if the Fund Board decides not to purchase the land.

The Fund Board, which is responsible for allocating the city's half-cent sales tax for education, typically approves and funds specific educational projects and programs, mainly for the Steamboat Springs School District. Acquisition of the North Routt Community Charter School land would represent the group's first venture into property ownership.

Gill said the Fund Board is legally permitted to own property, purchase insurance and charge rent. What's not clear is how property ownership meshes with the philosophy under which voters approved the creation of the tax.

"You're creating a new wheel when you start owning property," Gill said.

Capital Commission and Fund Board member Tom Ptach said acquiring the school property is, first and foremost, for its educational value to North Routt students and families.

"We wouldn't be bringing it forward unless there was an education component to it," Ptach said. "We think there's the additional benefit to the Education Fund Board of the investment opportunity there."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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