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Board considering $128K bid for old school

| March 30, 2007 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Libby School Board voted 5-2 to pursue negotiations with a Kalispell developer who has offered $128,000 for the old high school.

School board members Lee Disney, Gela Koehler, Tracy Comeau, Jerry Frament and Teri Kelly during a Tuesday meeting supported continued talks with Bryan Scott, an investment executive with Flathead Financial Group.

School directors Kate Huntsberger and Jim England were opposed.

"I'm personally not interested in the $128,000," Huntsberger said. "I just don't like the proposal."

The vacant 90-year-old downtown building sits on 1.7 acres next to the Memorial Center.

"That's 22 lots," Huntsberger said. "In Libby, that's worth $350,000 to $400,000. The next year we'll be asking for a mill levy (to increase taxes)."

England also didn't like the offer.

"It think it's worth twice that," he said. "If we sell, we're going to lose a valuable piece of property. Do we want to take this public piece of property and sell it? I don't think $128,000 is enough money for it."

In support of working with Scott, Kelly said she believes the building is worth what someone is willing to pay, but doesn't want to accept any contingencies that could result in the district getting the building back.

"If we sell it to you, it's yours," she told Scott. "You do with it what you will."

Disney said he would be more comfortable with a target figure of $135,000.

Scott, who said he is willing to pay a little more than the $128,000, would like to buy and remodel the Mineral Avenue building into 12 to 14 office suites. He's looking at spending $3.3 million to renovate the building, which would involve replacing the floors, ceilings and walls. He believes the only thing salvageable is the exterior bricks.

Scott based his offer on a recent appraisal.

"It's the first time we've bid on a building for which we didn't have a purchase price," he said.

A Missoula company that appraises historic buildings had determined the property 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.

In the offer, Scott proposed not paying the district for the building until after the renovation is completed or by May 1, 2009, whichever comes first. He told the board this is a common practice for this type of project.

Scott also proposed that expenses incurred to weatherize the building to prevent further damage and any cost of more than $30,000 to remove asbestos should be reduced from the purchase price.

A committee with board members Lee Disney, Huntsberger and Gela Koehler met at 9 a.m. Thursday to discuss the offer.