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District waits for decision on old school

| February 22, 2007 11:00 PM

School officials expect to know soon what a Kalispell firm's intentions are for the old high school building in downtown Libby.

Superintendent Kirby Maki said Bryan Scott of Flathead Financial Group told him that within the next two weeks he will either be presenting the district with a proposal or backing out of the project.

"But the numbers are looking good, and he seemed kind of upbeat about the progress," Maki said.

Flathead Financial Group had first expressed an interest in the old school more than a year ago. That interest resurfaced in January, after Spokane development firm ConoverBond dropped out.

A Missoula company that appraises historic buildings estimated the value of the 1.7 acres occupied by the school at $240,000. Demolition costs for the 90-year-old building are estimated at $120,000, resulting in an "as-is" value of $120,000 for the building and the lot. ConoverBond representative Ryan Romaneski told the school board the company had decided it would not be worth doing a $2.5 million to $3 million renovation.

Romaneski also noted that although many residents and school directors favored the project, support from Maki, the city of Libby and Lincoln County seemed to be lacking.

Scott told the school board last month that his company is considering buying the old school and renovating primarily for offices. The final decision will rest on economics, he said.

Scott said his company hopes to have 40 percent of the space in the building committed before the first dollar is spent. Renovation would include asbestos removal and gutting of the building. The exterior would remain the same, with the exception of new high-end windows, Scott told the board.

Scott said he would be willing to share the parking lot with the nearby Memorial Center and make the property available for the Farmers' Market and Logger Days.