Granite School District has delayed a decision on what to do with East Mill Creek Elementary School, which was closed last year because of underutilization of schools on the district's east side.
The district put off a decision for 30 days to allow Salt Lake County and community residents to come up with a plan for using the building. The county would like to have the school for a senior citizen program but does not have the money to pay the district for its purchase.The school district also is pressed for money and "couldn't recommend making a gift of the property to the county," said Carl Christiansen, staff associate over property management, energy and safety.
Among those interested in preserving the school as a community center is the East Millcreek Lions Club. In a letter to the district, the club noted a longstanding relationship between school districts and County Parks and Recreation. A board comprised of members of both interests decided approximately 40 years ago that school grounds should be considered community parks.
The Lions suggest a transfer of the East Mill Creek property to the county to meet a "well-defined public need."
One potential use would be a senior center run by volunteers, the letter suggests. The East Mill Creek area has a wealthy resource of senior citizens who could provide volunteer services to the school system as well, it says.
Area residents who supported the building of the school through their taxes have a vested interest, the letter says.
However, said Christiansen, the district got a legal opinion that it may not divert school funds or properties to other uses without compensation.
"We're willing to negotiate land trades, or trades on services. We have sent a letter to the county asking them to coordinate community efforts and get an indication of the extent of interest in using the school for a community center. At the time the school closed, some area residents felt it could be successfully converted to an arts center or something similar.
"We have a legal opinion that school funds are trust funds that can't be diverted to other uses. We feel we couldn't give the property away or dispose of it for less than a reasonable return," Christiansen said.
The property has been appraised at $960,000, he said, but the board may not settle for that amount in a sale of the school and its green space.
Six offers have been made for purchase of the property. They have come from private and parochial schools and a contractor, he said. The offers vary according to the amount of the property desired and all of them request that the county finance the sale over a period of time.
The green space surrounding the school building has been a community concern since the district announced the school would close. Residents demanded assurance from the district at the time that the space would be kept available to the community, since it is the only available park/recreation space in the immediate area.
Any sale of the property would have to take into consideration the legal concerns connected with the green space, Christiansen.