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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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School Ad Hoc Committee Updated On Land Search

District Administrator Kim Eparvier updated the Peshtigo School District’s Ad Hoc/Facilities Advisory Committee at a meeting on Monday, Oct. 29, on the status of land search for a potential new middle/high school building.

At the end of July, the district sought and received electorate approval to purchase approximately 84.5 acres of property owned by the Wolverton family on the outskirts of the city for the price of $300,000.

In the middle of September, Eparvier announced at a meeting of the School Board that the Wolverton property was purchased from under the district by another party.

At this meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee, Eparvier gave a short recap of how the events of the district losing the property unfolded. He said that the property was actually under the control of the Wolverton Trust at the Stephenson National Bank and Trust, but that he had been led to believe that the Wolvertons could determine whether or not to sell the property.

When he discovered that this was not the case, Eparvier said the District made a modified offer to the Trust, of the same $300,000 price, but was modified in the sense that it contained the contingencies that were negotiated between the buyer and seller.

After about a month elapsed, Eparvier said he was informed that other offers had been received on the property, and then later, it was announced that the property had been sold to another party.

Eparvier concluded his remarks by saying, “That’s where it’s at.”

Members of the Ad Hoc Committee had a number of questions about the events that transpired.

Lou Nesberg asked if the District has found out what the property actually sold for and Eparvier said that there is speculation, but that he didn’t know for sure.

Nesberg followed up by asking if the District had been given the opportunity to counteroffer with SNBT and Eparvier’s reply was that because of the transparency of the process through which the district went to receive approval for the purchase, the public was well aware of the offer price, but he added there were other aspects that were kept private.

Randy Meunier asked if the District was going about the land search backwards, as in getting the electorate approval before the purchase?

The reply by Eparvier was that it wouldn’t make sense to go to a referendum without letting the voters know where or how much it is going to cost. The voters, he said, have a better understanding of the issues when they know the details.

Eparvier also spoke about the Des Jarles property, but he felt the property was too far out of town for a school. He added the District’s intent with that property was to possibly offer it in trade for a property in closer proximity to town.

Meunier followed up by asking if the District had considered the old Pulp Mill property and Eparvier responded there were some informal inquiries, but it was quickly determined that there might be some soil compaction issues due to how close the property is to the river. He added that the property was only about 13 acres and that with the current thinking on school construction, about 40 acres would make a better site.

This led to a brief discussion on possibly constructing a new elementary school on the old Pulp Mill property and utilizing both the current elementary and a reconstructed high school as an expanded middle/high school combination. This idea did not receive much support since it would require the district to maintain three buildings instead of two.

Dennis Karman asked questions about the “modified offered” made by the school and the Wolverton Trust. Nesberg followed up by asking about a prior property in which the District was interested a couple of years ago.

Nesberg then asked about an item on the meeting agenda, “Discuss options for acquisition of property by public entity.” She inquired about the processes of acquisition by imminent domain and the process of condemnation.

Eparvier admitted he was not an attorney, but explained his basic understanding of the imminent domain process, which is a long, drawn-out procedure. He added that it was not something that is done without a great deal of thought and planning. As for the condemnation process, Eparvier admitted he didn’t really know the difference.

At this point, Karman spoke about his research on both topics and that it is something that is predominantly pursued only by utility companies. He explained the process, as he understood it, and how the matter usually ends up before a judge and/or a jury. He added that the process is a very difficult avenue to be pursued by a school district.

With no other questions on these topics, Eparvier passed out maps of an analysis of potential properties in and around the Peshtigo city limits. He pointed out potential properties, along with their pros and cons.

In response to the question about why a 40 acre parcel is preferred, Eparvier talked about the need for parking, sports practice areas, green space requirements, retention ponds, and room for future expansion.

This led Nesberg to question the wisdom of taking about potential properties, especially in view of recent events. Her fear was that something similar could happen again.

Eparvier reviewed the requirements placed on the district, since it is a public entity. He said that the process is a balancing act. In the past, the district has been criticized about doing things behind the backs of the voters on the one hand, and on the other they recently had a piece of property purchased out from under them. He said the District does need to take all of these things into consideration.

Lynn Wortner asked if the District was still considering coming after the homes across the street from the current Middle/High School to which Eparvier answered his personal thought was that the Board only saw that as an exercise they had to go though because some in the community thought it was the only viable option for a school. He added that the idea was lacking in that it wouldn’t have gained enough space or acreage for a school.

Board President Mike Fifarek addressed the committee stating his major concern was still with the District providing a top-notch education, rather than getting bound up with athletic fields. He added that it was fine if the space is there, but that it shouldn’t be the first priority. He then went on to talk about the needs of the current building and the problems that are there. He was especially concerned with undiscovered asbestos problems and removal costs should a major renovation need to be done.

Eparvier concluded the meeting by saying these things will have to be decided by the School Board before any future step is taken. He thanked the committee for their work and dismissed the meeting.




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