Talks over Ozawkie building could include purchase by Keystone
by Dennis Sharkey
Although many things still need to be worked out it’s still a matter of when rather than if in a move for Keystone to Ozawkie.
However, now being thrown into the discussion is the matter of Keystone purchasing the Ozawkie building from the Jefferson West USD 340 sometime in the future.
Up until now all public discussion has been centered around a lease agreement between Keystone and USD 340. If an agreement is reached, the Keystone offices along with the John Dewey Learning Center would move into the building. Currently JDLA is housed in the old Lecompton High School and the Keystone offices are in Oskaloosa.
Both sides assigned delegates to meet and hammer out an agreement. Since last month both groups have met twice with the first meeting lasting 2 1/2 hours and the second two hours.
USD 340 school board member Shannon McMahon told Keystone board members last week that the future is scary for some of her board members and letting go of the Ozawkie building will be hard. However, she said Keystone taking ownership of the building is something she would like to envision.
“In the future I would like it to be Keystone’s building,” she said. “Not knowing the future of our districts… it’s still probably a little scary not knowing.
“The stress is sitting there,” she added.
The future of what USD 340 wants to do with the building is one major hurdle each side must clear, but overall cost is also weighing heavily in the discussions.
The Ozawkie building is not new and some major capital improvement projects are on the near horizon for the building, with the biggest being the roof.
Who pays for a new roof?
If the answer is Keystone, then the question becomes how? Any capital improvement reserve fund that Keystone has would not fund such an undertaking.
“I feel like it will come back to the local districts if we have to go through that,” Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall said.
Keystone board members agreed that if they foot the bill, they want a guarantee that their organization will be in the building the next time the roof needs to be replaced, or compensated.
Board members agreed that if Keystone pays for a 20-year roof and Jefferson West wants the building back in five years, Keystone would be reimbursed for 75 percent of the cost.
Although not part of either negotiation team, McMahon said she believed the USD 340 board would be willing to share any liabilities.
McLouth USD 342 board member Ed Courtney said during his school board meeting and at the Keystone meeting last week that he is concerned about moving into the building and then having to move back out.
Courtney, who is part of the Keystone delegation, said that during discussions USD 340 board members indicated that they would have to see a spike of 150 students in their district before they would need the building.
Courtney also expressed concern about the USD 340 desire to have access to the school gymnasium for baseball practice in the spring. Keystone board members have already conceded that the baseball field at the school will remain under the control of USD 340.
“I’ve said from the beginning that if we don’t get the gym, we don’t have enough space,” Courtney said. “There’s not enough square footage and no room to expand.
“It would be terrible to spend all this money moving and not have an opportunity to expand,” Courtney added.
Valley Falls USD 338 board member Jody Lockhart cautioned that plans for expansion may be premature as well.
“We really can’t think about expanding until we know if they want to sell the building or not,” Lockhart said.
Board members came to a consensus that they would like to work toward an agreement that would require Keystone to be responsible for maintenance of the building and would reduce USD 340’s assessment for rental fees.
ACCHS USD 377 board member Todd Gigstad said he likes that option because they will be the actual inhabitants of the building.
“It’s not like we’re going to shut that building down in May,” Gigstad said. “We’re going to be in it year-round. It’s just like a house. It will be the flagship for this organization.”
Maintenance costs for the building totaled about $13,500 last year.
Marshall said they would work toward a three-year agreement that renewed annually and required a two-year notice by either side. More talks are expected before Keystone meets next month.
In other actions:
Keystone board members approved the organization’s yearly financial audit after it was presented. Overall the audit was clean with some minor suggestions from auditors to improve efficiency and accountability, however, auditors did note that some items were challenging for an organization with a small staff.
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