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Appraisal values old school at $240,000

| December 14, 2006 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A Missoula company that appraises historical buildings has determined the 1.7 acres occupied by the old Libby High School is worth $240,000.

It would cost $120,000 to demolish the building.

That was the news Libby School Board heard during a Tuesday work session.

The board by January expects a Spokane developer to decide whether or not it still wants to make an offer on the property. ConoverBond is considering buying the vacant 90-year-old building for a $2.5 million to $3 million renovation, but was waiting for the appraisal.

No one from ConoverBond could be reached on Wednesday.

School board member Lee Disney, who has supported saving the school, said he would favor selling the property to ConoverBond assuming the company offers $115,000 to $120,000 - the value minus the demolition cost.

"I would be real surprised if they bid over the appraisal," Disney said. "I think if they offer the $115,000 to $120,000, I would vote to unload it. We can put it with other money we've got and go fix something else that's broken. We need a new roof on the high school, and we need this and we need that."

If the school board turns down ConoverBond's offer, the district will have to pay for the $10,000 appraisal.

The school board in March voted unanimously to allow ConoverBond to get an appraisal for setting the sale price on the old school. The board agreed to pay for that appraisal should the district decide not to sell the building.

ConoverBond had talked about remodeling the brick building at Mineral Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard for professional and government offices. The firm focuses on urban redevelopment, including renovations of historic buildings and new construction projects for technology, health care, hospitality and retail.

Prior to ConoverBond's involvement, a local group called Friends of Historic Libby High School offered to buy the building for $100,000. That offer was rejected by the school board, which set a price of $350,000.

Empty since 2000, the building was last occupied by Lincoln County Campus of Flathead Valley Community College.

Stevens & Co. in Missoula did the recent appraisal.

"It's slightly higher than I expected," Disney said. "It's not Lee Disney, Russ Barnes or (superintendent) Kirby Maki saying what it's worth. It's a certified appraiser giving us official numbers so it's no longer a guess."

The $240,000 is about what school board chairwoman Teri Kelly expected.

"I didn't expect they would deduct off for demolition," Kelly said. "We have some questions for them."

Maki believes the appraisal is close.

"It does show property values are increasing in Libby," Maki said.