School board considers land purchase

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Taxpayer approval would be needed to buy potential school site

The Oconto Falls School Board continues to explore a parcel of land that is going up for sale near the high school and elementary school as a possible site for a future middle school.

Superintendent Dean Hess told the board at its May 14 meeting that the property is across County Road I from the high school and elementary school complex.

“Recently, I was contacted by counsel for the Gauthier family to let me know that they would be working with a third-party representative and also a Realtor to offer that land, make it available, and the school district would be one of the parties that they would be contacting specifically for that potential purchase,” Hess said.

The board first learned about the property’s availability a few months ago. Although a decision is at least five years away, the aging Washington Middle School will need to be extensively renovated or replaced, and the proximity to the existing schools makes the property attractive for a new school.

The land is actually two parcels totaling about 110 acres, Hess said. Jim O’Rourke of Olejniczak Realty in Green Bay is working with the family.

“The asking price right now is $6,000 per acre,” he said, which works out to about $660,000 for all 110 acres. “There is the potential to make an offer on all or part of the property.”

The board met in closed session to talk about financing options and negotiation strategies.

The purchase would need taxpayer approval. Hess said the district could work out a purchase agreement contingent on approval by the electors at the annual meeting, which usually takes place in August, or it could schedule a special meeting of the electors to get prior approval before proceeding.

The board was scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to discuss the possibility of holding a special electors’ meeting.

The town of Stiles property is zoned agricultural, so the district would need to obtain a conditional use permit from the town board and planning commission in order to build a school there, or it could explore whether the city of Oconto Falls would be interested in annexing the land, Hess told the board.

“As you can imagine, Jim (O’Rourke) shared that their job is to try to do the best they can to honor the sellers,” Hess said. “And our job is to do the best we can to hopefully honor the taxpayers if the taxpayers were to decide, through the electors, that they wanted us to do that.”

In other business, the board let stand its decision to cut two full-time equivalent positions, affecting four employees, from the 2018-19 academic year budget.

Sharon Stodola-Eslien, a part-time social worker, had asked the board to reconsider its decision not to renew her contract, and she met with board members in a closed session before Thursday’s meeting.

After a second closed session to discuss the land purchase, the board voted 5-1 to let the decision stand. Board member Lisa Peitersen cast the dissenting vote, and board member Tracey Krumrei was not present.