A property purchase has been approved for the Iola-Scandinavia School District.
The public voted in favor of the option to purchase during a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 13.
The vote authorized the school district to purchase all or a portion of a property at 475 S. Main St., in the village of Iola. The lot consisting of about 2.8 acres is located adjacent to the high school parking lot.
The district plans to use the property for future development, with the first priority being a second access road to the parking lot.
The property became available for purchase through a foreclosure, according to School Board President Charles Wasrud, who chaired the public meeting.
“My concern was not to make it known that the school was interested (in purchasing the property),” he said.
According to Wasrud, Chet Krause, of Iola, agreed to serve as a facilitator “so we could get to this point.”
Krause purchased the property for an asking price of $68,750, which reportedly is below its 2012 assessed value of $101,100.
Wasrud said Krause has agreed to sell the lot or a portion of it to the school district at the purchase value, although he has invested other monies (including property taxes) into the property.
Parking lot access
“We need to have a secondary access to the high school parking lot,” said District Administrator David Dyb.
He noted that without a second access, the district “would have a very difficult time evacuating students from the premises” in a safety or crisis situation.
The cost to build a paved two-lane, 400-foot access road is estimated at $50,000.
“Acquiring adjacent property is always advantageous for a school district,” Dyb said.
Future development for the property could include expansion of the high school parking lot.
One of the suggestions provided by an elector was to use the house for tech ed classes.
“Refurbishment is really out of our realm for a property of that age,” Dyb said.
He explained that asbestos and lead paint could create problems.
“We would need to clear it and start fresh with (an empty) lot,” he said. “Typically, districts come out even in these situations.”
The high cost of insurance on a lot with a vacant house was another concern voiced by the electors.
“As a district, we already pay sky high rates,” Dyb said, noting the property insurance should not increase.
All or part?
The next step was for the I-S School Board to decide how much of the property to purchase.
The board discussed its options during its monthly meeting, which followed the special meeting of electors.
The two options were to purchase the entire property for a total cost of $79,900, or to purchase only two acres of the lot without the house for $20,000.
The purchase price could come from the $172,000 in Sparsity Aid the district recently was awarded based on declining enrollment.
Originally, the cost to purchase the property was slated to come from the district’s fund balance.
“It makes the decision much easier,” Dyb said.
He reported the house has five bedrooms and a three-car garage. Wasrud described the house as “livable, but could use fixing.”
The cost to demolish the house is estimated at $15,000.
“We are such a land locked area, when we have a chance to buy property, we need to strongly consider buying the whole thing,” said Tom Anderson.
Board member Mike Koles asked how much more parking space was needed.
The parking lot can only hold a few hundred cars, according to High/Middle School Principal Sara Anderson.
“On certain days, it’s incredibly bad,” she said.
Also, more parking is needed at the I-S Community Fitness & Aquatic Center.
“My problem with buying the house is that we’re shortchanging the school in other areas,” said board member Jeff Oppor.
“We aren’t that big. How far do we have to expand?” asked board member Ken Wavruk. “This is not a big purchase, but what are we going to do with the extra land?”
“Are we in the real estate business, or are we in education?” he asked.
“We are preparing (our students) for the future and who knows what we will need,” said Elementary Principal Tess Lecy-Wojcik.
“I believe it is an investment,” Sara Anderson said. “When we have a chance to purchase a property next to our school, we should take it.”
“We need to buy that land,” she said. “We never have enough space.”
“I think it might be a mistake not to get this land at this time,” Tom Opperman said. “It’s not often you get a chance to buy land adjacent to the school district.”
Board member Bruce Beyersdorf agreed.
“We’re only going to get this opportunity one time to purchase this property,” he said. “We don’t need to do anything with the house right away.”
All of the board members voted in favor of purchasing the entire property for $68,750.