BOE proposes trade with City

Published 3:41 pm Friday, April 6, 2012

The proposal has been made and now the City of Georgiana has a few decisions to make in regards to the old Georgiana High School and R.L. Austin Elementary School properties.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Allin Whittle attended Tuesday’s Georgiana City Council meeting to offer the part of the old Georgiana High School property that is west of Patterson Avenue at no cost to the City of Georgiana.

This offering includes everything except items like the band room facility, the gym and the current weight and dressing room facilities, Douthitt said.

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“You all have been good partners to the Board of Education and in that part of the partnership, we have always been the one that’s been given something,” Douthitt said. “Tonight we want to give that property to the city and let you use it as you wish.”

With the offering, the Board of Education is also proposing the idea that if the council so chooses, the city would trade Idlewood Park for the old Georgiana High School property.

“We would like to exchange that property that exists across from Georgiana School,” Douthitt said. “However, that wouldn’t have any bearing on us passing the property off if the council saw fit not to trade with us.”

If the city decided to make the trade, the school would take full control of the park including insurance and maintenance and the city would take full control of the high school property including insurance and maintenance.

With the offering came concerns and questions from the council including from council member Lisa Lowe.

“I am concerned on behalf of the city over the portion of the Georgiana High School that you plan on letting us have,” Lowe said. “I don’t know what sort of condition it is in.”

Douthitt confirmed that he has been in the facility on numerous occasions but didn’t see large issues. He said some of the floors may need some work, but parts of the facility could be used right away.

As far as the R.L. Austin facility, Douthitt said there is an entity that is interested in using that building.

“What we’re after is an entity that will control the property and put it in the hands of a group that would maintain that property without it ever having the need to have it passed back to the Board of Education,” Douthitt explained. “I’m not disputing any idea that the group who is pursuing that property cannot do that, but the fact is that, and this is just me talking, this is not the board, I believe that the city is better equipped to maintain that property or to make decisions about it in regards to managing it or passing it off as they see fit in the future.”

If the trade took place, Douthitt explained that all Board of Education owned property is public property and the public would still have access to Idlewood Park. However, if there were a conflict of scheduling between the City and the Board, the Board would have full control.

Richard Hartley, the City’s attorney, gave his opinion on how the city should approach the offering.

“In the first place, the City has to have a need or should have a need for this property that you are going to take,” Hartley said. “What I am going to call the old high school building, you do, as I see it, have a need for that space.”

Hartley said the old high school property would be a great location for a new city hall to house the police department and possibly council chambers.

“If you have the money to go over there and get it like you want it and then maintain it, that, I would believe, should be something that you should consider doing,” Hartley said.

Even though Hartley advised the City to take control of the old high school property if the budget allows it, he does not advise the City to take control of the R.L. Austin property.

“You don’t have a need for that piece of property that I have heard,” Hartley said.

If the city were to take the R.L Austin property, the city would have to lease it for fair market value, conduct an environmental audit and possibly phase two of an environmental audit and an examination of the title, which could cost between $30-50,000,” Hartley said.

The council voted to table the offer for further discussion until its May council meeting.