People who want to comment on the possible sale of the Challis Middle School can share their thoughts with school trustees at a 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15 hearing in the school auditorium.
Peter Liebman with Boyd Watterson Asset Management, a real estate company based in Cleveland, Ohio, spoke by phone with Challis school trustees earlier this month about purchasing the building. Boyd Watterson specializes in being landlords for properties occupied by government entities. His call followed a letter of intent he had previously sent Superintendent Lani Rembelski indicating the company’s interest in buying the building.
Students haven’t attended classes in the building for many years. The auditorium is still used for various school functions.
The Bureau of Land Management has leased space in the building since 2017 and pays the school district $70,000 a year for the space. Various other tenants have leased space in the building, including the city of Challis which had City Hall located there for a while. Since they moved in, BLM personnel have upgraded the property to meet their standards, including construction of a secure parking lot in 2018.
Board Chairman Brett Plummer told Liebman there was no way they could sell the building without a public comment period.
Not only do they need time to get feedback from the community, Plummer said, board members also need time to research the legality of the proposal. Although he and other board members agreed that it would be nice to not have to spend more than $1 million in BLM-required renovations, Plummer said they already completed a request for proposals for a possible extension of the lease with the agency. Selling the building would mean terminating lease negotiations. Before Liebman made his offer, board members were considering extending the lease agreement another 20 years. And, Plummer said, Idaho school districts are required to solicit bids when selling such assets as the building.
Board member Jim Chamberlain advocated for “looking into selling the building.” Although he didn’t approve of the deal Liebman proposed in his letter, where the building’s value would be determined by an appraiser hired by Boyd Watterson, he said it would be better to work out a sale with the real estate company than try and extend the BLM’s lease.
“The budget can’t take it,” Chamberlain said. He also voiced concern that opportunity like this might not present itself again.
Board member Trish Farr agreed with Chamberlain. Even with her reservations about Liebman’s proposal, Farr said it’s worth looking into because the money from the sale could be reinvested into the elementary and high schools.
In his letter, Liebman had asked for an answer by Thursday, Aug. 19. Plummer told him it would take three to six months for board members to decide if they want to sell the property because of the all the steps required. Liebman was OK with that, as long as he has confirmation board members are willing to explore a potential sale.
Liebman claimed it would be beneficial for all parties if the district sold it. He said school board members could wash their hands of the issue of upgrades to the building and lease agreements and make a profit for the district.