Contracts totaling $61,300 were awarded last week to companies based in Challis and Salmon to build a secure parking lot and storage yard for the Bureau of Land Management on land owned by the Challis school district.

School trustees awarded the contracts for work that’s planned on the southwest corner of the middle school property on Main in Challis. A baseball field and basketball court now occupy that space.

The school board held off on approving a new lease agreement with the BLM last week until the numbers can be finalized.

The federal agency leases office space in the middle school building for $8,500 per month, which adds up to $102,000 a year. They will pay more to lease the land for the parking lot and storage yard. Challis schools Superintendent Lani Rembelski is figuring out the additional rental charges with BLM Manager Todd Kuck. The new costs will be presented to the school board in November, when trustees will consider approving an addendum to the existing lease agreement.

The school board awarded a $42,500 contract to Robinson Electric to remove topsoil, excavate and apply gravel to the BLM parking lot and to install security lighting and a frost-free hydrant. Trustees selected an $18,800 fencing bid from Salmon-based Buhler Fencing. The BLM has agreed to reimburse the school district for the entire $61,300 cost.

There was plenty of discussion among trustees and administrators about the cheapest option for plumbing water to the hydrant. In the end, the board left it up to Superintendent Rembelski and Maintenance Supervisor Bob Williams to decide. School Board Chairman Brett Plummer noted the board shouldn’t micromanage. The city charges the school district a monthly rate for an unused water meter on the southeast of the school district property. Installation of a new water meter would cost the district $1,800. That doesn’t make sense for one hydrant, Trustee Teri Stillwaugh said. Rembelski will figure out whether pulling the old meter out and installing a new one closer to the hydrant makes financial sense in the long term.

The current lease agreement between the district and the BLM requires the BLM pay to convert office space inside the building back into usable classrooms at the end of the lease. However, the agency would not agree to restore the parking lot back to a baseball field, Plummer said. The district would end up owning a secure parking lot and ware yard if and when the lease ends.

The school district is pursuing a long-term lease with the agency but will have to compete for it when the BLM puts that proposal out for bid. The BLM is in the second year of a three-year lease with the district. The agency previously rented space short-term in the Challis Community Event Center after an October 2016 fire destroyed its office building.

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