COUNCIL BLUFFS — The Council Bluffs Community School District board on Tuesday approved the $3 million sale of the Madison Campus to CP Holdings Inc. of Omaha for an undisclosed purpose.
Board members discussed public input, the cost of renovating and maintaining the facility, paying the utility bills, other possibilities for the Kanesville Alternative Learning Center and benefits to the community if they sold the property.
“I’m still struggling with this decision,” member Jill Shudak said as the discussion began. “There were some passionate pleas last meeting, and I’ve had a lot of questions from constituents about this issue.”
Board member Troy Arthur talked about the costs, as well as concerns about the old Washington School Building where the Kanesville Alternative Learning Center is located. Arthur asked Chief Financial Officer Dean Wilson how much utilities cost at the Madison Campus. He said it’s about $100,000 a year. Arthur also mentioned the cost to upgrade the building and make changes needed to repurpose it, as well as maintain the building and pavement.
“We’ve seen great expense just keeping up these parking lots at these schools,” he said, adding that the district has spent more than $1 million restoring the Abraham Lincoln High School parking lot over the past couple of years.
“I do think the conditions at Kanesville, while the upstairs is much better than the downstairs, are not good,” Arthur said. “We talked about moving Kanesville. … I understand kids wanting to (renovate) the school, and that they should have a nice school. If we sell (the Madison Campus), maybe some of that $3 million could be used to renovate it.”
Putting the property back on the tax rolls and creating jobs would be good for the community, he said.
According to Heartland Properties Partner John Jerkovich, the buyer will hire about 68 employees for the Council Bluffs location, eventually expanding to up to 100 employees. The jobs will offer compensation of $60,000 or more, with the average salary between $70,000 and $75,000.
The facility filled a need for the school district, Superintendent Vickie Murillo said.
“We bought it at a fire-sale price,” Murillo said. “It was the only building in the district that could hold 1,100 students.”
The seller, Dearborn Properties, was asking $3.8 million for the property, and the school district got it for $1.9 million, she said.
The district also spent $4.4 million to renovate the building and remodel it for use as a school.
If the district had kept middle-schoolers in their buildings while they were being remodeled and moved around the facilities to allow the work to take place, completing both the Kirn and Wilson Middle School projects would have taken an estimated six years, Murillo said. As it was, they were both done in two years, and students were able to participate in music and physical education during the projects. Also, the students did not have to listen to the noise while trying to concentrate on learning.
Of the Kanesville building, Murillo said, “We can renovate that building. It is in the center of town where (it needs to be). We had students that walked into the building this morning, and I don’t know that they could have walked all the way to Madison.”
Said board President Chris LaFerla of the Madison Campus, “I think it worked for the purpose we bought it for. It served its purpose.”
LaFerla added that the district does not have to pay utility bills on the space its offices occupy in the Omni Centre Business Park. And the district only had temporary permission from the city to use the building as a school, he said.
“I think the best idea is to sell it. If we do sell that building, Kanesville has to be a priority,” he said, adding that he thinks the district can give Kanesville students “the building they deserve.”
No one who attended the meeting spoke on the sale during public participation. Additionally, no one from the buyer’s side was at the meeting.
The board voted unanimously to sell the Madison Campus.
According to the agenda, proceeds will be deposited in the district’s physical plant and equipment levy fund, where it could be used for other facilities expenses.