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Wasatch County School Board announced on Thursday evening, January 20, 2011 that a buyer has been found for the old high school building located at 64 East 600 South in Heber City.  “We are pleased to announce that we have located a buyer for our old high school,” said School Board President Ann Horner.  “We have been anxious for this day to arrive and we are so happy that is it here.”

The terms of the sale were pretty straight forward.  The buyer, Ken Patey, representing Praia, LLC, agreed to a price of $3 million dollars for the building, including 9.624 acres of ground.  With that agreement, the buyers agreed to take the building “as is”  with no contingencies and to provide an attractive fence which would separate their property from the Wasatch School District property upon which it borders. In addition, they have agreed to not allow any business in the building which would negatively impact the educational efforts of the neighboring schools.

“That was a very big deal for us,” said Mrs. Horner.  “We have always known that the property was more valuable with the building removed than with the building standing.  To find someone who wanted the property with the building and was willing to take it as is, was a real home run for us.”

One major shortcoming referred to by Mrs. Horner is the presence of asbestos in the building, which is not a danger unless the building is removed.  In that case, expensive safety measures must be taken to insure that the asbestos fibers are controlled and not inhaled by workers or nearby residents.  That responsibility now rests on the purchasers, not the school district.

One of the big pluses of the sale is that no realtor was involved in the transaction, which means that no commission will need to be paid.  That is a huge savings to the district on a sale of this magnitude.

Some members of the community expressed frustration that the district was selling the building.  “Why are we not keeping it to build another school in the future?” asked one patron.

“We made it clear when we moved Wasatch High School to their new location that we have no interest in having schools on Main Street,” said Board President Ann Horner.  She then went on to remind those in attendance of the number of children who were injured by traffic on Main Street.  “Just today, I was visiting with the mother of one of our former students who, at age 29, just had her hip replaced because of an accident suffered, in a marked crosswalk, while she was in high school. The thought of having that type of injury happen to our students is intolerable.  For someone who is that young to have that type of surgery should cause all of us great pain. We have no plans for having our schools located on Main Street.”

Audience members asked to know the intended use of the building. “We cannot make that announcement this evening,” said school board member Jen Kelson, “because it is not our information to give out.  The purchaser will be releasing his plans for the use of the building in the near future.”

Residents demanded that the board hold off on the sale of the building until they (the residents) could know what the building would be used for. “He may be choosing to raise hogs there for all we know,” said one individual.  After several angry comments from the audience, Heber resident Bruce Heywood pointed out that the people were asking for something that was not within the school board’s authority. “That area is zoned for a certain purpose,” he said, “and if the buyers intend to use the building for the purpose for which the area is zoned, they have the right to do so.  If they choose to do something that is beyond what is zoned, then they will need to make application with the zoning board for the change.  That is when the public would be involved, not now.”

The school board was asked by some patrons in the audience if $3 million wasn’t a low price for such a structure, indicating that they had anticipated that it would bring much more.  “We have always said that we would be trying to get as much out of the building as possible,” said President Horner.  “Our business manager, Keith Johansen, provided us with the 2008 appraisal of the building, which came during the beginning phases of our construction of the new high school.  At that time, before the bottom fell out of the real estate market, it was appraised for $3.1 million with the building and $3.69 million without the building.  With that in mind and looking at what has happened with real estate in the past few years, we are pleased with the purchase price.”

Additionally, the board spoke of the savings to the district that will be experienced with the sale of the building.  

“We have had the expense of maintaining the building until it was sold so that it retained its value,” said Superintendent Shoemaker. “We have had to pay personnel to remove snow from the sidewalks and keep them safe.  When a windstorm lifted the roof off of the gymnasium, we had labor costs involved in securing the building until Risk Management could make the necessary repairs. There was a continuous drain on our finances to maintain the building securely.”

Another point that was received favorably by the school board was that the buyer did not need to secure financing.  Within 180 days, the district will receive $1.1 million in non-refundable payments.  The balance of $1.9 million is due one year later at 4% interest, and the district will not be subordinating its first position on the property to any financial lending institution.

BY JOHN MOSS   01/26/2011

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