Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Proposed Water Tower/Softball Field Land Swap Meets with Skepticism by GMSD Board
At a work session yesterday afternoon GMSD board members discussed a proposed "land swap" put on the table by the City. GMSD needs a softball field. The City is not allowing the girls' softball team to play on its fields by the high school. Instead, the high school is currently using a field at a nearby church. The City wants to build a water tower on the property of the Forest Hill Elementary School. Although obviously the City knew of the water tower plans at the time of the site selection, the public did not. It was only through citizens searching through capital improvement plans that the public learned of the issue.
Here is the draft of the agreement that was discussed:
Land Use Agreement
Below is a YouTube of the work session and meeting:
Much of the work session cannot be heard very well, so I will just have to do my best with this brief synopsis.
Here GMSD staff described the history of the issue.
Some of the things discussed by the board members:
1. Why hadn't all the aldermen been consulted about this proposed agreement?
2. The agreement seems lopsided. The City wants shared use of the softball fields, at least until alternative land is located.
3. The City not only wants property for a water tower at Forest Hill Elementary, but also property for a park, taking up an entire 15 acres out of the 38 acres GMSD owns. In addition to that, there would have to be egress from school property, taking up additional space.
4. GMSD has already paid over $230,000 for pipes for the water tower during the construction of the school. The City was supposed to pay for this, but now it appears that these funds are being used as a bargaining chip to get the terms that the City wants. The funds apparently will only be reimbursed to GMSD after an agreement is reached.
5. What about the future needs of GMSD? Once the property is given up, GMSD loses options for the future.
Board members seemed to differ on whether the swap is even a good idea, with some saying that use of the softball fields should be given to GMSD, and the funds owed to GMSD paid, before even discussing the property for the water tower. Others talked about compromise. The recording was not good enough to clearly understand everyone's exact position, so I will refrain from discussing the positions of each board member at this point. Those individual positions will become clearer in the future.
What they all agreed on is that there needs to be a joint meeting of the BMA and the School Board, and that this proposal did not make sense.
Mayor Palazzolo was there and made a brief statement, claiming he had not expected the board to vote on the proposal then. He also said he had been trying to repay the funds owed to GMSD.
GMSD Board Chair Rebecca Luter summed it all up here. The GMSD Board is calling for the joint BMA/School Board meeting on the issue.
Former GMSD Board candidate Brian Curry was one
'citizen to be heard" that actually could be heard. He called the deal "extortion" by the City. He agreed to take a lie detector test as he described a meeting that he had with the Mayor.
Posted by Polly at 11:49 AM