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Libby school district and country discuss land swap

by Alan Lewis Gerstenecker
| September 17, 2013 10:19 AM

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Property Trade One

Libby School District and Lincoln County officials will meet next month to discuss a land swap that allows for a combined 55-acre tract near Libby High School that could provide one large mega-campus building site.

Officials will meet Oct. 2 with to discuss the deal that would expand the current 22-plus acre tract of land on which Libby High School sits to include another 30 acres owned by the county. The site is located northwest and west of the current high school.

In exchange, the county would get almost 31 acres of the 39-acre tract the school district owns behind McGrade Center just off Farm to Market Road. Currently, the district leases the McGrade Center to the state of Montana. The deal includes land only, and does not include the McGrade Center building.

“It’s just a win-win situation for both the county and the district,” Libby School Board Member and Building Committee Member Les Nelson said. “We set up a tentative meeting with the county and that didn’t happen. We’re now going to meet Oct. 2.”

Libby School Superintendent K.W. Maki said last week this kind of deal just makes sense for the school district.

“I’ve visited with commissioners, and they seem agreeable,” Maki said. “At some point, we have to begin looking at what’s next for our schools.”

Maki said. “At some point, we have to begin looking at what’s next for our schools.”

That is exactly Nelson’s point.

“We’re talking about a 55-acre site that could be a mega-campus for K through 12,” Nelson said. “Yes, the land has its challenges. There’s a creek and a pond, but we’re not going to be building any basements. Think about the outdoor laboratories with a creek or a pond for our science classes. The soil can always be built up.”

The proposal also has preliminary support from School Board Member Melissa LaGoy, who also serves on the Buildings and Grounds Committee with Nelson and Board Member Bruce Sickler.

“I think (the proposal) has great potential,” LaGoy said. “Certainly, we will need to look at all aspects of it and put it before the public. We need to be looking at acreage at some point down the road.”

A message left on Sickler’s cell phone for comment was not returned.

Maki said both wooded, undeveloped tracts are areas where the other could benefit from the swap.

“Both of these are low areas,” Maki said. “The McGrade tract is adjacent to Libby Creek, which makes for a good park setting. The land near the high school also is low, but soil could be brought in.”

Currently, the tract near McGrade has no water or utilities. While no are no utilities available on the county land near the high school, there are utilities to the homes that surround the tract.

Lincoln County Presiding Commissioner Tony Berget said it’s a good deal for the county because it already owns land in that area and this tract will allow congruency and provide better access to Libby Creek.

“We actually have land in the area, so it does make sense,” Berget said. “It could allow better access for things like gold-panning. This will guarantee an access to Libby Creek perhaps for RVs or ATVs.”

Berget said the commissioners will announce the meeting on a pending agenda.

Maki said the district did not readily have available an estimate of worth for the property.