Grand Forks School Board to discuss potential sale of West Elementary
Board expects to consider the school district's proposed process for selling the property
Grand Forks school district administrators intend to present a plan for selling West Elementary School at the next School Board meeting on Monday, July 26.
The building, which has been vacant since February 2020 when unhealthy levels of radon were discovered, has been cleared of all school-related materials, items and valuable equipment, said Scott Berge, the district’s business manager, in a memo to board members. The memo is attached to the meeting agenda.
West Elementary was officially closed by the School Board at its April 14, 2020, meeting. West students were transferred to Discovery Elementary School.
“The building is vacant and ready for sale,” Berge’s memo reads. Under state law, the district has the authority to purchase, sell, exchange and improve real property, he said.
The district’s legal counsel and the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission were consulted about the potential sale of West Elementary, Berge said.
District administration will ask the School Board to require a formal site visit by potential bidders as well as a formal bid process, including parameters for the proposed use of the property, timeline for development, examples of similar projects completed, and purchase price.
The district proposes to advertise the sale, collect sealed bids and compile results, leaving the final selection to the School Board.
“A sale could remove the property from the district prior to the upcoming heating season, greatly reducing the demand on our staff to maintain the facility,” Berge said.
West, along with several other schools in Grand Forks, is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. Because of that status, the school district must obtain approval of the state historical board to sell it, according to a letter, dated June 9, 2021, from Attorney Richard Olson, of the local firm Olson, Juntenen, Sandberg and Boettner, to Superintendent Terry Brenner.
The state historical society has indicated that “they would not know what role they would play in the sale of West Elementary School until they were given a proposal of the buyer of the School and how that buyer would be using the School,” Olson’s letter states. “The State Historical Society noted that they would likely be working through the local Grand Forks Historical Society to assist in any process the State Historical Society may require in the sale of the School.”
There is no applicable law -- that his firm could find -- requiring the district to first obtain a commercial appraisal of West Elementary prior to the sale of the property, Olson said, noting that in an opinion his office provided the school district in May, the district must not give or sell property at less than fair market value. The North Dakota Supreme Court has stated an appropriate way to ascertain “fair market value” is through a public sale, he said.
It will be up to the School Board to determine whether or not to employ a commercial appraiser to estimate the potential value of West Elementary School in a closed bid sale, Olson said in his letter to Brenner. “However, there are a few pitfalls to that process. The appraisal is an open record and may complicate or restrict the potential bidders’ appetite for a high value in excess of some commercial appraisers estimate.”
School district officials plan a celebration of West Elementary School on Aug. 18.