Selling acreage to school district questionedNovember 21, 2013
By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer
JASPER — City councilmen are hearing from a number of residents who don’t want the City of Jasper to sell to Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools any of the former Jasper Country Club property the city now owns.
The matter was discussed at the monthly council meeting Wednesday. Councilman Kevin Manley brought up the issue and noted that it wasn’t the council that decided that the property would be sold.
“I don’t feel like we were involved in the decision to sell the acreage,” Manley said this morning. “We were told as a council that there was an agreement with the school that we would sell up to 15 acres to the school.”
City Attorney Renee Kabrick explained Wednesday that it was the understanding all along that the city would sell up to 15 acres of the total approximate 60 acres to the school district. Mayor Terry Seitz agreed, adding that when the city was considering making the purchase, it wanted to avoid getting into a bidding war with the school district over the property. He also said that the council knew prior to the city purchasing the property earlier this year that this was the understanding.
This understanding had been shared during at least one council meeting prior to the council appropriating the funding to purchase the property. According to the minutes from the council’s Dec. 19 meeting, one month before the appropriation was made, Kabrick is recorded as saying that “there has just been a handshake with the school to acquire 10 to 15 acres of the country club property from the city if the city purchases the property.”
At its Jan. 23 meeting, the council appropriated $1,030,610 for the city to purchase almost 60 acres of former golf course property that sits west of U.S. 231, south of Schuetter Road and north of 15th Street. The purchase was completed in April. An advisory team is working with consultants CityVisions of Louisville and Gamble Associates of Boston to devise a proposal for the property’s use.
Residents who attended a public meeting about the property in September said that the property should be developed some, but not too much and not at an expensive cost.
Councilman Dave Prechtel said at Wednesday’s meeting that he is getting feedback from residents saying that they don’t want the city to sell any of the property to the school district. “But I was under the impression that we had no choice,” he said.
Manley said this morning that residents have told him that they are concerned about the district placing a school or sports fields on the land because it could bring more traffic to the area. Residents also have said they’d rather the land be kept as a natural park with maybe a lake. Manley said he also has heard the opinion that if another school needs to be built, it should be constructed near the middle school.
Greater Jasper School Board President Nancy Habig said at the Jan. 8 meeting of the Jasper Redevelopment Commission, of which she is a nonvoting member, that the school district is interested in buying up to 15 acres of the land along West 15th Street adjacent to the high school building and east of the junior varsity baseball field. At the September public meeting, the consultants said that a section of the property near 15th Street could be used for an elementary school. Greater Jasper Superintendent Tracy Lorey, who is a member of the advisory committee, added that the school board has been working on a feasibility study of the district’s elementary schools to determine whether the current facilities meet the students’ needs.
Lorey said this morning that she has not received any calls or emails from people who don’t want the school district to buy the land. And at the moment, the matter is not on the agenda of the next school board meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday.
Councilman Randy Buchta said Wednesday that he thought the property the school district wants would be reappraised. Kabrick said that is not her understanding. The school district paid for one of the two appraisals needed to determine a price for the land overall, she said.
Kabrick, Manley and Prechtel said that the people who do not want the school district to buy any of the property should let the school board know of their concerns.
A meeting of the advisory team that is considering uses for the property is planned for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the Pfaffenweiler Room at City Hall.
Contact Candy Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.