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Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Board OKs deal for St. Marys school site

By Janie Southard
St. Marys City Schools officials signed an agreement Friday to purchase a 73-acre tract of land north of town for the purpose of locating a new high school/middle school complex.
The property, directly across U.S. 33 from St. Marys Chrysler, is owned by Paul Fortman, who received a $10,000 option on the $1 million price for the land. The option money will be applied to the purchase price if the 6.9 mill, 28-year bond levy passes in November. The price per acre amounts to nearly $13,700.
The cost of the land, plus infrastructure, including 1,000 feet of road improvements on Shipman Road and a traffic light, totals $1.35 million, all of which is available from existing district funds.
"None of this is included in our bond levy amount of $25.75 million, which will be on the November ballot," said District Superintendent Ken Baker.
He stressed that this land purchase would not have been possible without the cooperation of the city of St. Marys, whose mayor, Greg Freewalt, said the city has looked at putting lines across the four lane for more than 10 years.
"The school will annex to the city, otherwise, of course, we wouldn't do it ... What we expect to do is run large electric lines over the highway that would service any manufacturing and residential that would locate out that way," Freewalt told the newspaper Friday morning.
"We are not doing this for the school only, but for development coming. The city has been boxed in for a long time ... This is an opportune time for us to expand," he added.
He declined to comment on all costs to the city but estimated water lines would come to about $200,000 and electric lines, electric substation and a lift station costing a lot more.
"But we'll be ready for people to hook on long-term ... Payback on this kind of thing is typically 20 to 30 years," he said.
According to board of education president Rees McKee, the land committee looked at many old sites and finally boiled it down to two: the Fortman site and a tract east of town, owned by three land owners, across from Parker-Hannifin Corp..
"This option gives us time until Oct. 8, 2008, to purchase the land. We have agreed on the $1 million price and the option protects us from someone else buying the land for, say, $1.2 million. If we cannot purchase the land by that time, we'll forfeit the $10,000," McKee said, adding the board has tried to make the process as open as possible.
"Obviously you can't disclose everything when you're dealing with land owners. But, I'm glad we have the option so that we're now able to move on," he said.
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