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Friends offer $100,000 for old school

| September 16, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

More than a year after making its original offer, a local nonprofit group is the only one to make a proposal to purchase Libby's historic high school.

The Libby School Board recently advertised the building for sale with an asking price of $350,000. Board members set Tuesday as the deadline for responses, and opened the sealed bid from Friends of Historic Libby High School.

They offered $100,000 cash and up to $250,000 in in-kind services toward providing water, sewer, electrical and heating systems to the building.

"This purchase price takes into consideration that the building, in its current state, is not a working building," Friends wrote in their proposal.

School board members discussed the offer briefly during Tuesday's work session, but took no action. They will tackle the issue in more detail during Monday's board meeting, Sept. 19, which begins at 7 p.m. at the district administration office, 724 Louisiana Ave.

The board finds itself in nearly the same situation as it was in August 2004, when Friends also had a $100,000 offer on the table.

Board chairwoman Teri Kelly said at that time, "We've been hearing a lot of information for a long time. It's time we made a decision."

The choice remains whether to sell the building, constructed 1917-1919, or raze the structure and retain ownership of the land.

In its offer, Friends said they intend the building to house commercial office and retail space along with possible residential use. The fact that several community events are held on school grounds adjoining the Memorial Center, Friends wrote, "would be kept in mind as the grounds are further developed for the use of tenants."

Memorial Center officials and school administrators have been concerned over possible loss of parking at the site. Friends' offer indicates that the purchasers will work with community groups "to the extent possible" to see that parking continues to be available.

The band shell area will be treated the same way as the parking issue, Friends noted.

The nonprofit group touts its purchase of the building and grounds as a boost for economic development in Libby. The offer calls the property "pivotal in the redevelopment efforts."

Friends president Vicki Munson wrote, "We see it as a tribute to the ability of Libby people to take their future in their own hands, to provide not only renovation jobs, but a new economic engine for downtown."

She added that the historic building, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, "represents a cultural and heritage value to the community that far exceeds any price or monetary value one could ascribe to the building."

Board chairwoman Kelly asked Munson if Friends would be able to pay for the building in a lump sum payment.

"With a closing date of three months from now, yes," Munson replied.

Maki said the board's options include readvertising the property.

"You could re-look at your asking price," he said.