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Trustees agree to appraisal

| November 30, 2004 11:00 PM

By Brent ShrumWestern News Reporter

The Libby School Board last week gave Friends of Historic Libby High School the go-ahead to have the vacant Lincoln Building appraised in preparation for a spring election that could determine whether the old school is sold or demolished.

The board voted in October to hold an election to see if voters favor selling the building. Initial discussions favored a mail ballot, but cost concerns may lead to the district sponsoring a more traditional election. At an agenda meeting earlier this month, district superintendent Kirby Maki told the trustees that a mail ballot would cost about $10,000, or about three times as much as a regular election.

At last week¹s meeting, trustee Jim England spoke in support of the Friends¹ proposal to partner with the district in having the building appraised to determine its value before the election. The group has already offered to buy the building and property for $100,000.

³If we¹re going to put this thing up for a vote, that is one of the first things I would want to know,² he said.

An appraisal doesn¹t mean that¹s what the district would get out of the building, said board chair Teri Kelly. The selling price could be more or less, she said.

³I¹m not for spending money unless we know whether it¹s going to sell,² she said.

Board member Jerry Frament said England made a good point.

³I think it¹s misleading,² said trustee Christine Heinlein.

³Are we afraid to find out or what?² England asked.

Friends representative Ron Carter told the board his group will pay for the appraisal on its own.

³We¹re not asking the school district to kick in the cost, or any part of it,² he said.

England moved to allow the group to have the building and property appraised, and Frament seconded the motion. The board passed the motion without objection.

³As long as we¹re not under any obligation, we need the information,² said trustee Melanie Wood.

Also at last week¹s meeting, the board debated the merits of allowing the Friends to clean and maintain the building before the election.

³Obviously they¹re hoping they¹re going to have a positive response on the vote and it doesn¹t deteriorate further,² said former school board member Lee Disney, who presented the board with a letter from the group.

Kelly expressed concerns about liability.

³I think that¹s something we could certainly do with our people,² she said.

Maki said he could talk with the staff and see what could be done.

England called it ³ridiculous² that the district would turn away volunteers.

³I don¹t know why we are so concerned with some of these things with liability when we have volunteers doing everything else ? driving kids and doing everything else,² he said.

Several board members questioned whether volunteer laborers would be covered under the district¹s insurance. At Wood¹s suggestion, the board agreed to authorize Maki to discuss the issue with district staff and work with the Friends if needed.