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District agrees to sell Holmes to Boys, Girls Club

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

The Rochester School Board ratified a deal this morning to sell Holmes Elementary School to the Boys &; Girls Club, providing the 2-year-old youth organization with a permanent home.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Boys &; Girls Club will pay the district $18,000 each year for 20 years -- a total of $360,000 -- for the building.

Boys &; Girls Club officials said they plan to launch a capital campaign next year to raise $1.3 million for remodeling and demolition work as well as a building addition. They hope to begin construction in 2004.

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In the meantime, the club intends to use the building but will board up the unstable portion of the structure, which is slated for demolition but also houses the building's boiler, officials say.

The agreement stipulates that the youth organization demolish the unstable west part of the building, while the district will remove an underground fuel tank and asbestos.

Because of the 20-year payment structure and inflation, the true value of the deal to the district is more in the range of $267,000. The district has budgeted $100,000 for fuel tank and asbestos removal, meaning the net gain for the district will be about $167,000. School officials have talked about using those dollars to purchase land for a new elementary school.

The deal is structured so that the district bears the costs up front, but doesn't get paid in full until years later.

Cris Fischer, chairwoman of the Rochester School Board, said the deal is good for the district for several reasons.

"Whether we had sold Holmes School or not, ... the asbestos and storage tank removal would have to be done anyway," Fischer said.

In addition, she said, the district is helping a program find a home that is "clearly needed in this community" and that "enhances what we do in the school district."

It also makes financial sense, Fischer said. If the district had torn down the building and sold the land, the best it could have hoped for was $150,000 --the appraised value of the land.

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The environmental hazard work was budgeted as part of the district's 10-year maintenance plan and will be funded through the district's maintenance levy.

Jim Kelly, Boys &; Girls Club president, said the deal works for both parties.

"The school district thought that they should get more for the building than $150,000. They've accomplished that," Kelly said. "From our standpoint, our rent is $5,000 a month. We're taking our rent from $5,000 a month to $1,500 a month, and we're tripling our space. How can that be bad for us?"

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