School board passes old school resolution
By ROGER MORRIS Western News Publisher
Reacting to a legal filing by Lee Disney and the Friends of the Historic Libby High School, the Libby school trustees passed a resolution Thursday re-stating their intent to sell or demolish the old high school.
When the district decides whether to sell or to demolish the public will be given a 14-day notice, according to the resolution passed unanimously on Thursday.
Passing the resolution on Thursday turned "the meter off" for all the attorneys involved and saves the school district money, said superintendent Kirby Maki.
A court hearing had been scheduled in district court for Friday, Nov. 18. District Court Judge Michael Prezeau ordered the district to revoke their Sept. 19 decision pending compliance with state law.
An application for a Writ of Mandamus had been filed against the district Nov. 7 by Disney, a former trustee and member of the Friends of the Historic Libby High School, and the Friends forcing the school district to comply with state law in disposing of public property. The 'save the school' group argued that although the trustees voted Sept. 19 to tear down the building, they did not pass a resolution as required by state law.
At that meeting two months ago, the trustees also rejected an offer by the Friends to purchase the building for $100,000.
Disney informed the board after that meeting that he believed they violated the law by not passing a resolution as required by state law.
The legal complaint was filed by the David "Ken" Wilson Jr. of Helena law firm of Reynolds , Motl & Sherwood. The district was represented by Montana School Board Association attorney Rob Stutz.
The resolution passed by trustees on Thursday was agreed to by both Stutz and Wilson. It says the board passed a resolution on June 22, 2004 that the district would sell or demolish the old school and that resolution was legal.
In the complaint filed against the school district, "Mr. Disney asserts, on information and belief, that the school building will be torn down with the next few weeks."
However, the school board has agreed to participate in a Dec. 9 meeting in Libby with National Trust for Historic Preservation, Montana Preservation Alliance, the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, the Friends of Old Libby High School, Libby Revitalization Inc., City of Libby representatives, and ConoverBond Development, a company specializing in restoring old buildings.
The old high school building housed the Lincoln County Campus of Flathead Community College until about 2002. It was last used as a school district building in the 1960s. In June 22, 2004, the trustees passed a resolution to sell or tear down the old high school because "it is abandoned, obsolete, undesirable, and unsuitable for the school purposes of the district."
In August 2004, the trustees discusses possibly selling the building but approved a motion to "research a plan" to demolish it. In September 2004, Disney inquired if the board had made up its mind about selling the building. Trustees said they had not and were gathering information about the value of the building.
A month later, in October 2004, trustees agreed to put on the ballot for May 2005 the question of whether or not the district was authorized to sell the property. Seventy-one percent of those participating in the election, which went 626-262, said sell it. Only 18 percent of the registered voters in the school district participated in the election.
Trustees continued to debate whether the property should be sold or the building torn down. They formed a committee to research selling the building and in June 2005 advertised a request for proposals for the property. During that discussion, it was suggested that the land itself was worth $300,000.
Later in June, representatives from the Kootenai Heritage Center, who manager the Memorial Center next door, and the Libby Revitalization Inc., who is working on plans to redesign downtown Libby, asked the school board to retain the ownership of the parking lot and bandshell for community uses. Also, LRI asked that the building not be used to house a casino, strip mall or heavy manufacturing. And the group asked that the land not be allowed for the development of a "big box store."
In July, trustees put a $350,000 price tag on the building and said they would accept bids until Sept. 13.
On Sept. 16, it was announced at a regular trustee meeting that the Friends group had offered $100,000 for the building plus $250,000 in in-kind services to restore water, sewer, electric and heat to the building.
On Sept. 19, the trustees rejecting the Friends offers 5-0 and then voted 4-1 to demolish the building with Jerry Frament dissenting and Lisa Bardole, Jim England, John Herrmann and Teri Kelly voting for demolishing it. Trustee Kate Huntsberger abstained from voting on the request of Duane Williams because her husband, Gary Huntsberger, has been an outspoken advocate to tear down the building.