District buys future school plot

Anticipating that both the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the planned development of the area west of Highway 16 will boost South Kitsap’s population, the South Kitsap School District is negotiating the purchase of a 56-acre plot from the McCormick Land Co. as the future home of one or more new schools.

The school board Monday night approved buying the site near the intersection of Old Clifton and Feigley Roads, for which the district will pay $1.4 million and trade a 20-acre site in the same area purchased from McCormick Land Co. in 1999.

The district has yet to determine what type of school is needed, but the size of the site would be appropriate for either a new high school or two smaller schools.

“We will have to look at the population’s needs, but this will give us much more flexibility than the 20-acre site,” said Terri Patton, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and support services. The district estimates a new elementary school will only require 10 acres of flat, usable land, and a junior high school would need 15-20 acres. A high school could not have been built on the smaller site, as it would require 35 to 40 acres.

The district’s Facilities Steering Committee, which includes Patton and other administrators, along with teachers and community members, will be preparing recommendations on what type of school the district needs most. A new school most likely would not be built for several years, however, Patton added.

Although it has not been decided how the property will be used, Patton said the district decided to buy the site now because of escalating property prices and the limited availability of suitable plots.

“We think this is an excellent deal,” Patton said. “Land prices will just go up, so it is prudent to buy it now.”

Case in point: The smaller site the district is trading in was purchased at $48,000 four years ago, and is now worth $600,000.

The district will use money from its Capital Projects Fund, which is restricted to capital and construction purchases, to buy the land. Initial funds will come from developer impact fees, Patton said, along with the proceeds from other district surplus property sales, and the balance will be financed with a low-rate, 10- to 15-year bank loan. Patton said a future bond issue is being considered to pay off the loan early.

Patton said it will take a year and a half before the deal is official because a feasibility study — required whenever school districts buy property —will need to be completed, and several improvements will have to be made to the site.

The sale agreement is also contingent on McCormick Land Co. vacating the current Feigley Road, replacing it with a new road and building an off-site stormwater system, all at the company’s own expense.

The sale is expected to be completed in summer of 2004.

Other School Board actions Monday night:

• South Kitsap High School junior David Brannon was selected as the school board’s new student representative. The position is designed to give students a voice on school issues and to provide a means for the board to communicate with the student population.

Brannon was selected from among three candidates to replace Jaymi Orser, whose term expires at the end of April. Brannon will attend all school board meetings and is considered a non-voting member of the board.

Brannon carries a 3.5 cumulative grade point average and is involved with Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), Associated Student Body (ASB), NHS, and NJROTC.

• The board approved the renovation of the failing Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system at Cedar heights Junior High. The new system’s pricetag of $676,916 will be paid for by a $114,313 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, a $82,500 grant from Puget Sound Energy and a 10-year loan of $104,664.

The remaining balance of $375,439 will be covered by district funds allocated in the current levy plan.

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