Hayden School District offers to sell high school building to town for $50K | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden School District offers to sell high school building to town for $50K

Deal faces some challenges before it can be finalized

Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco discusses potential new uses for the town's soon-to-be-vacant secondary school during a reuse meeting in October. Town officials recently signed a contract to purchase the school from the Hayden School District for $50,000, with closing on the deal scheduled for the fall.
Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Hayden School District has offered to sell parts of the soon-to-be vacant secondary school to the town for a small fraction of its market value. 

In an email to Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco, Hayden School Board President Brian Hoza said the board agreed to sell the space, including the gymnasium and auditorium, for $50,000 — less than 10% of its market value. 

This comes after Hayden Mayor Tim Redmond asked the Hayden School Board in November to consider donating the spaces slated for reuse as a community center, citing a scarcity of funds to make a purchase. He added the town does have $100,000 to put toward buying the school, but officials want to use that money as leverage for future grants.

“At this point, we are still in negotiations,” Mendisco said of the deal.

While many residents see a community center as a valuable addition to the town, concerns remain that could jeopardize the deal. 

The school district plans to vacate the building at the end of the current school year, with the new, pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade campus slated to be ready for the 2020-21 school year.

$38.8 million BEST grant helped fund construction, and provisions of the grant require the old school to be demolished unless a public entity, in this case the town of Hayden, opts to purchase or operate it. In order to save the gymnasium and auditorium from demolition, the school district needs to gain permission from the BEST grant program.

According to Hoza, time is running short to finalize demolition plans by March, which he said is the necessary date in order to meet the grant requirements. 

Finalizing a deal with the town would need to come before that deadline. In that case, the town would have to purchase the property before it can gain the necessary public approval to afford to maintain it, Hoza said. That poses another concern to him.

“Once we request to repurpose the school to another entity, we can’t go back and change our mind,” Hoza said. 

In a survey conducted in October, residents voiced strong support for repurposing the school as a community center. Of the 370 people who responded to the online survey before the meeting, about 85% said they support saving the gymnasium and auditorium of the school. 

About 6% of respondents said they do not support the preservation project. A primary argument against the initiative is a proposed sales tax increase. 

Maintaining and operating the building would require a 1% sales tax hike, Mendisco said, an initiative he wants to put on the ballot in April or May. If the town does not approve the tax increase, he said it would be financially unfeasible to take over the building.

Mayor Redmond said he was confused by the School Board’s claim that it needed to have a deal finalized before March. He argued members could negotiate a more flexible demolition plan that would allow the town time to gain the public’s approval. Otherwise, he does not see a way forward.

“Without a ‘yes’ vote from the town, I am not going to risk this town’s financial future,” Redmond said. 

School Board and Hayden Town Council officials hope to meet in early January to finalize a deal, Hoza said. He added that school board members are generally supportive of repurposing the school into a community center.  

Redmond agreed saving the building would bring significant improvements to the town. The space would allow a permanent location for the after-school daycare, Totally Kids, as well as public entertainment and recreation opportunities, according to previous Steamboat Pilot & Today reporting

“The other alternative is it comes down,” Redmond said. “We’ll see.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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