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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Controversy is brewing in the Jordan School District over land deal struck with Kennecott. Critics say the board paid much more than what the 32 acres near 10200 South and about 5000 West in South Jordan are worth.

SOUTH JORDAN — A land deal betwen the Jordan School District and Kennecott Land is being scrutinized. Critics say the board paid too much for the 32 acres that will someday be home to an elementary school and junior high school.

The land near 10200 South and about 5000 West currently has arsenic levels that are too high, and the deal still gives too much control to Kennecott, according to critics.

As Tim Ellingson, a Jordan School Board candidate and critic of the land purchase, walked past the fields Wednesday, he said he didn’t like what he saw.

“They should have been looking for bargains in other areas that are growing, rather than buying premium land with all these extra bells and whistles attached,” Ellingson said.

His concerns are within appraisals, environmental studies and the purchase agreement itself, documents of which were obtained by KSL.

The paperwork shows the district spent just over $7 million for the 32 acres. Appraisals, which were for 29 acres, ranged from the district's estimate of $5.3 million to Kennecott Land's $6.6 million, and that took into account high arsenic levels that needed to be fixed.

Ellingson also says Kennecott Land will have a say in things like school designs.

“They’ve put a limit on the number of portables, which is what Jordan School District uses to adjust to capacity changes,” he said.

While he is a candidate for school board, Ellingson isn’t the only one publicly airing concerns.

In a phone conversation Wednesday, the lone school board member to vote against the deal, Peggy Jo Kennett, told the Deseret News she was concerned about the cost, the fact that there was no independent review of the cleanup efforts, and that the district had to buy an insurance policy for the land — something she says has never been done before.

Still, the rest of the school board elected to make the deal, saying space in schools is already in short supply and buying land now instead of later will be cheaper. Jordan School Board member Susan Pulsipher said she thinks the purchase was “absolutely worth the money.”

“I think, in the long run, we’ll actually save money with this piece of property,” Pulsipher said.

As for Kennecott, company officials said there's a lot of value in the property, and this is a site that's basically ready to build, in terms of things like utilities.

KSL News also spoke to an expert at the Department of Environmental Quality, who said so long as Kennecott complies with the environmental standard at the end of its cleanup, there should be no further environmental concerns with that land.

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