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Offer expected next week on old school

| March 23, 2007 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A Kalispell developer on Tuesday, March 27, tentatively plans to offer to buy the old Libby High School.

Bryan Scott, investment executive with Flathead Financial Group, told the school board during a Wednesday meeting he needs to consult with his attorney before making the offer.

That offer to buy the downtown building could then be made during a 7 p.m. school board meeting in the administration building next to the Memorial Center. The meeting will be open to the public.

The board at that time could vote to sell the building or delay taking action, said school board chairwoman Teri Kelly.

Scott did not tell the board what he would pay for the vacant 90-year-old Mineral Avenue building, which he would like to remodel into 12 to 14 office suites.

Water damage means floors, ceilings and walls need replaced, he said. The only thing salvageable is the exterior bricks.

"I think our offer would've been three times higher if we would've been in 18 months ago," he said. "Each day the damage gets worse and worse."

Scott doesn't want the matter delayed.

"We need to get into that property and get it weatherized," he said. "Once we get mold in the main beams, the project would become financially unfeasible. That could happen within the next 45 days."

No minimum price has been set for the building, said district superintendent Kirby Maki.

"A few years ago, when Friends of the Old High School offered $100,000, it was declined," Maki said.

A Missoula company that appraises historic buildings had determined the 1.7 acres occupied by the school is worth $240,000. Demolition costs for the building are estimated at $120,000, resulting in an "as-is" value of $120,000 for the building and lot.

Scott in January expressed an interest in buying and renovating the building, which would involve adding a tower for an elevator. Construction would begin this spring.

He has been working with TLC Engineering in Libby and has toured the building.

"We've gotten to the point the we're now serious," Scott told the board. "We like the building. We like the project. We like Libby."

"It's like buying a house," he continued. "You like the house. You do the drive by and walk-through. Hopefully by next week we can have a buy-sell (agreement) for you."

Scott will look for tenants.

"I don't think occupancy will be a problem," he said. "There's plenty of people (interested) and as Libby grows, they will be looking for office space."

With the renovation, he hopes to retain the look of a school.

"The walls would be in the same place is my goal, and the wide hallways will remain," Scott said. "When one of you steps into a room, you can say 'this is where Mr. Smith's old room was.' You'll still have the feel of the high school."