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Investors offer to buy high school

| April 20, 2007 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News

A group of local investors represented by Libby's Gary Huntsberger on Tuesday offered to buy the old Libby High School for $160,000.

Huntsberger, who would not name the seven other investors, told The Western News the group would either re-sell the downtown property with or without the vacant 90-year-old building or subdivide the 1.7 acres. A Missoula appraiser valued the property at $120,000.

"It was not difficult to come up with a group of people to do this," Huntsberger told the board. "We will have $160,000 cash payable on closing."

The proposal came one week after Libby School Board made a counteroffer to sell the building to Kalispell developer Bryan Scott for $150,000, but no action was taken. An investment executive with Flathead Financial Group, Scott in March offered $128,000 for the Mineral Avenue building.

He's looking at spending $3.3 million to renovate the building into 12 to 14 office suites.

After the school board's counteroffer, Scott proposed that if he buys the building and determines it's not financially feasible to remodel it, the school district could buy it back. The school district also would be repsonsible for Scott's related costs. If the school officials don't buy it back, Scott can tear down the building.

Scott has indicated earlier he's not sure what he might get into once a renovation begins. Water damage will require replacing the floors, ceilings and interior walls; the only thing salvageable is the building's exterior.

As part of Huntsberger's proposal, he asked the board to tell him what restrictions might be included for the property.

"We need in writing what you want as a school board," he said. "What you are going to require with the sale of the property — what a person can and cannot do."

Huntsberger claims the board has never made its intentions clear.

School board member Lee Disney, however, during a March 29 meeting indicated that in the sales agreement with Scott it should stipulate that the building would be sold for renovation purposes only.

In the meantime, the school board has agreed to begin the legal process for selling the building. The board passed a resolution, which gives taxpayers 14 days to file an appeal with the District Court.

"The board isn't going to set stipulations (for use of the property) in the resolution," Disney said. "We as a board are moving forward to sell the property."