Selling Blueberry school: The right deal for school district

In meetings this past year trustees agreed to sell the building and lands to the Society for $1.00.

  • Oct. 30, 2015 8:00 p.m.

At the public portion of the SD 20 meeting held Oct. 26 trustees announced the details of the sale of the Blueberry Creek School to the Blueberry Creek Community Society.

In meetings this past year trustees agreed to sell the building and lands to the Society for $1.00.

The following caveats have been agreed to : the Board has a) right of first refusal to repurchase both building and land for $1.00 if either the society ceases to exist or tries to subdivide the land and caveat b) the Society may not compete with SD 20 by housing an independent school nor a private school.  The society also agreed to pay for all legal costs related to the disposal of the school. In other words if the Society ceases operations or tries to subdivide the land the School District has the right to repurchase the land and building for $1.00 if it chooses to.

Trustees spent many hours in debate on this issue.  Here is some of the background that impacted my decision.

The Blueberry Creek Community Society has a vibrant highly valued series of programs it offers to families of the lower Columbia valley.

They provide daycare, after school care, strong start, preschool, 1-to-1 reading, environmental camps, science camps to name only a few of their many offerings.

At a well attended public meeting held at the school it became clear to trustees that the broader community values the Societies programs very highly.

At that meeting the community did not want to see any disruptions in service that a possible sale could create.

The land and building are currently zoned as institutional land.  Currently only institutional use is permitted for the building and land. All use restrictions would apply to the buyer of the building and land when sold.  Any land development would have to comply with zoning regulations.

If the building were to sit vacant for a time waiting for an institution to buy the land the Board would be responsible for the annual upkeep.

The Board would be required to complete all expensive maintenance as the building sat empty.

If the building were sold only a small amount of the money would be readily available for District capital projects.

By law the sale money would be divided as follows: 75 per cent to restricted capital and 25 per cent to unrestricted capital.

The 75 per cent restricted capital must have government approval before being spent on capital projects.  The 25 per cent of unrestricted money could only go to capital projects and could not be spent on hiring, supplies, equipment or any other operational need of the district.

When contemplating the value of the school and land please consider the zoning implications.

Also please consider a real life comparable situation.

The current owner of the former Beaver Valley Middle School has it listed for over a year for $250,000.  It is a much newer, larger building than Blueberry and is sitting on roughly the same amount of land as Blueberry.

The sale would also free the Board from maintaining an old building in need of hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades in the next 10 years.

In the end, trustees agreed to sell the building and land to the Blueberry Creek Community Society for $1.00 with the critical caveats already mentioned agreed to.

The Board of School District 20 wishes the Blueberry Creek Community Society all the best as it continues to grow and hopes they remain a vital service to many in the Lower Columbia Valley.

Darrel Ganzert is the chair of the School District 20 Board of Trustees.

Community Comment is an opportunity for elected officials from our local municipalities to update citizens in the region on the events, plans and progress in their respective communities. Every Friday, the Trail Times will present, on a rotating basis, a submission from councils, school trustees or regional district directors.