After public comment and a 90-minute closed executive session, Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District board members authorized executive director Skyler Archibald to seek a two-month extension before purchase of Broadway Middle School from the Seaside School District.
The extension request at Tuesday’s park district board meeting came after directors received emails, letters and comments from critics of the purchase, including more than 30 people in the Facebook group “Transparency for SEPRD Taxpayers.”
“Please stop the speeding train and do some research before the SEPRD makes a huge decision that could have a very negative impact on our community,” former park district board member Margene Ridout said.
The project was rushed, lacked public scrutiny and comes with potentially high remediation costs, said Tita Montero, administrator of the Facebook group.
Montero, a City Council member, said she was speaking as a private citizen.
She questioned if the park district has funds to remediate the 71-year-old building or operating capital to make loan payments.
“No matter where the money comes from, the taxpayers are ultimately holding the bag,” Montero said.
She proposed a community-based task force to determine district needs.
“My vision is community conversations rather than confrontations,” Montero said. “My vision is that SEPRD plays well with the community.”
Randall Frank, also a city councilor speaking as a private citizen, suggested the district take more time before deciding on a purchase of the property, closed by the school district this year for a new campus outside of the tsunami zone.
“I might not be opposed to this proposed purchase, but show me the business plan or projections,” Frank wrote in a letter to the Signal.
Seaside’s Diane Wells described the middle school as “a property that will require extensive upgrade, deferred maintenance, and will create a liability for the district.”
The purchase was approved by the current board, Wells said, without voter approval, sale specifics and inspection results.
Youth sports, day care possibilities
With a negotiated price of $2.25 million, the middle school is vacant after the Seaside School District moved the campus to a new location on Spruce Drive outside the tsunami inundation zone. The school will seek a $2.5 million loan through the Special Districts Association of Oregon.
Proponents of the project see an opportunity to anchor an important location in the city, provide child care, add recreational facilities and programs for all ages.
“The strength of the community is hinged on its children,” said Andy Klumper, a coach and father of four. “Broadway Middle School is very important for the community and the health of our kids.”
Kerry Januik of the Pacific Basketball League said the acquisition could enable competitions to be held in Seaside in the winter months “when we are slowest.”
Broadway Middle School has been the league’s mainstay, she said. The middle school’s basketball courts, in addition to courts at the new campus, would allow players to participate without leaving Seaside.
Seeking an extension
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s nearly four-hour meeting, board members unanimously agreed to authorize Archibald to seek a 60-day extension, which, if accepted by the school district, would provide time for extended inspection reports, a business plan and public input.
Webinars at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10 and 17 will detail financing, partnerships and potential uses for the property, with participation from board, staff and the public.
“I am relieved the board extended the deadline,” Wells said after the meeting. “I feel they listened to our valid concerns. It’s going to be a large task to accomplish true due diligence. More detailed inspections are needed with true numbers for remediation. My wish is for the district to rescind the offer, make a realistic plan, and take it to a vote.”