The Payson City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to trade six acres of city land for historic Peteetneet School and its 6.8-acre lot.
"It was the Nebo School District that made the proposal, so completing the deal should be a piece of cake," Mayor Curtis Arrington said. Nebo had also proposed trading Peteetneet for five acres and $11,000.Payson officials have been negotiating with the Nebo School District, owners of the Peteetneet property, since October. The 87-year-old elementary school was closed last spring after an engineer's report concluded the structure would not withstand an earthquake. Because it has been expensive to maintain the building and would be much more costly to bring it up to safety code, the Nebo School District has tried to sell the building.
The land was appraised at about $75,000; the school was judged worthless because of the amount of renovation it would require.
"We think it will take about $100,000 to get the building in good enough shape to be used," Arrington said.
Larry Brown, leader of a citizens committee to save Peteetneet, said he hopes much of the money will be donated, but Arrington said a special service district may have to be established to finance the project. The council will discuss the special service district idea at its Feb. 1 meeting.
In a recent survey sent to Payson utility users, 79 percent of the 800 who responded wanted Payson to acquire and save the school; 45 percent said they would be willing to offer financial support for the project.
After renovations are finished, the public may be asked to vote on whether it would support a tax to raise funds for Peteetneet's maintenance and operation, Arrington said. His "rough estimate, not based on a lot of research" was that $12 to $24 added to each annual property tax bill would satisfy the school's needs, he said.
Brown added that some operational funds could be raised by renting out space in the building.
Brown said it was nice to have the deal approved, but now the work will really begin.
"Now we will have to start planning uses for the building, applying for grants and working on fund-raisers to get money for renovations," he said.
City administrator Rod Watkins said he expects no problems competing the deal with the Nebo School District officials because "they have already basically accepted it." All that was left after council approval was to have the city land surveyed, a deed drawn up, and to exchange deeds for the two properties.
The Nebo School District will trade for land across from Payson High School. The district may initially use the space for a parking lot, Arrington said.