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District finds government tenants for McGrade

| March 18, 2004 11:00 PM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

The McGrade Elementary School building will be leased to a group of state agencies, the Libby School Board voted during a regular meeting on Tuesday night.

Since closing the school last year because of declining enrollment and budget woes, the facility has been vacant. Several groups and businesses interested in leasing the building approached the school district.

³We wanted someone to be in there, but we didn¹t seek out these groups,² said Superintendent Kirby Maki. ³We¹re not trying to make a profit, we¹re hoping to reduce the tax dollars we need to be able to function and keep the building alive and healthy, while protecting our capital investment.²

The school district budgeted $20,000 to cover the overhead of the school while it has been unoccupied. Renovations to the building will be done to protect the integrity of the structure, Maki said. The lease should cover those expenses initially.

³The whole intent was to take the first year, do the renovations, and really it doesn¹t cost us anything except our labor,² he said. ³The next year we wouldn¹t have that expense and hopefully we¹d realize a few bucks. I¹ll feel more comfortable because at least we¹ll have a little money.²

Selling the school outright would remove the possibility of using the building again if the district needs the facility in the future. The board decided on a 10-year lease to allow the district to reevaluate its situation after a significant amount of time has elapsed.

³If we¹re going to do all this renovation, let¹s make the lease long enough,² Maki said. ³When I look at the enrollment projections, even if the mine reopens, it would still take a while before we would be in need of the building. If the building¹s in good shape when we get close to the 10-year timeframe, we can evaluate where we are, what we¹re doing, and if we need the building.²

Head Start has been leasing space in Plummer Elementary School, which Maki said has been mutually beneficial.

³We¹ve felt really good about the partnership,² he said. ³It¹s worked out for everybody.²

Once the district has recouped renovation expenses from the agencies occupying McGrade, any excess money will be placed in the district building fund.

³We want to make sure that all of our buildings are maintained in a manner that¹s going to keep them healthy and alive,² Maki said. ³We¹re trying to maintain a quality program, maintain our capital assets, and try to keep them in a certain amount of care in case we need them again.²