The Nebo School District would like to make someone a fast deal on Peteetneet School, but Payson is negotiating slowly for the property, a Payson official said Thursday.
"The school is a liability to the district," Rod Watkins, Payson City administrator, said. "Of course they want to get rid of it, but they want a fair price."Some (Payson) city officials are interested in the property, but would like to delay any agreement until after the elections in November and see what happens with the tax-limitation initiatives."
The 87-year-old school was closed last year after an engineer's report concluded the structure would not withstand an earthquake. Since it has been expensive to maintain the building and would be much more costly to bring it up to safety code, the district has taken action to sell the building.
The district recently accepted bids for the building and the 6.5-acre lot it stands on, but district officials said the offers were unreasonably low and would not be considered. The land was appraised at about $75,000; the building was judged worthless because of the amount of renovation it would require.
But many residents want Payson to buy and preserve the historic school, or at least maintain the land as a park.
"There will be a survey to see what action the citizens would like to support," Watkins said.
Payson officials had originally hoped the district would donate the land to the city. Payson sold the land to the Payson School District for $1 in 1896. That district was later absorbed by the Nebo School District.
"The city council notes from the time show the council intended the land be used for a school," Watkins said. "I would like to see our attorney look at the case with that in mind."
Philip Argyle, Nebo School District director of operations, said in an earlier interview that Payson had no claim on the land.
"The deed is explicit," he said. "There was no indication the site should go back to the city once it was no longer used as a school."
The Nebo School District is not allowed to give away things that are owned by the taxpayers, Argyle said. He said the building and land are owned by the taxpayers.
Watkins said Mayor Curtis Arrington had met with the Nebo School Board recently, and officials had given Payson 45 days to come back with a proposal. The district would consider either a land trade or money as payment, he said.
But Payson is in no hurry to settle the issue, Watkins said.
"If the tax-limitation initiatives pass, we will have less revenue and will have to look for what we can cut, rather than taking on new projects.
"Even if the initiatives don't pass, but Payson residents support them, we will be inclined to think our people don't want to pay for one more service (the maintenance of the school or grounds)," Watkins said.