After considerable debate Wednesday night, the Education Fund Board approved a gift of $265,000 to the Steamboat Springs School District for the purchase of the North Routt Community Charter School building and property.
But whether the School Board accepts that gift and purchases the property remains to be seen.
The proposal originally was brought to the Fund Board by its Capital Commission at a May 5 meeting. The commission brought the request forward for several reasons, including the investment potential of the historic Clark property.
"There's an opportunity to enhance the reserve base of the Education Fund Board," Fund Board member Tom Ptach said.
The property, which includes three structures, is owned by a group called Elk River Eagles, LLC. The group, made up of four local individuals and TIC, is proposing a sale of the property in the amount of $365,000. A grant from Historic Routt County! would provide $100,000 toward the purchase price. The property was appraised at $450,000.
Fred Wolf, managing partner of Elk River Eagles, said the group initially purchased the school in an effort to help ensure its future success. Elk River Eagles isn't interested in making a profit on the transaction, thus the asking price of $85,000 less than appraisal, he said.
"This is about a school and kids, and these people here put their hearts and souls into making this work out," Wolf told Fund Board members Wednesday. He said the school will fail if the Fund Board or school district doesn't purchase the property. The investing partners can't afford to pay the property's mortgage and neither can the 3-year-old charter school, he said.
But Fund Board and School Board members expressed a number of concerns with purchasing the property, including which entity --the Fund Board or the school district -- would have ownership.
Fund Board ownership could include hurdles such as liability and insurance issues, the effect of historic easements on resale of the property, whether the Fund Board should spend taxpayer money on real estate investments and ensurance that the investment would not cost the Fund Board any money in maintenance and other add-on costs.
School Board members and Superintendent Donna Howell expressed similar concerns regarding district ownership of the property and its inability to charge rent to the charter school.
Other concerns include maintenance cost responsibilities and whether the district will have to use money received from the future sale of the property exclusively on other capital expenditures.
The School Board will vote June 21 whether to accept the Fund Board gift. School Board President Paula Stephenson is against the proposal, while School Board member Pat Gleason is on the fence and Tami Havener supports the acquisition. Michael Loomis didn't attend Wednesday's meeting, and Jeff Troeger doesn't sit on the Fund Board.
Even a refusal from the School Board to accept the gift won't necessarily doom the proposal. In a straw poll conducted Wednesday, a majority of the Fund Board members said they'd support Fund Board ownership of the property if the School Board refused it and if certain issues could be resolved.
Timeliness is an issue with the possible transaction because the $100,000 grant must be used by July 15.