Rochester Public Schools recently sold its interest in a piece of property for $1,000. That may not sound like a lot of money, but to be fair, it wasn't a lot of land. Plus, it probably won't be missed since the school district didn't even realize it had anything to do with it in the first place.
The land in question –measuring 99 feet by 99 feet – is part of a larger parcel that went up for auction. During the course of the transaction, the buyer offered to purchase the school's stake. The fact that the school district had anything to do with it at all came as a bit of a surprise for the district's administration.
"A few weeks ago, the district found out we were potentially the owner of 9,000 square feet of land out in Eyota. ... We obviously didn't even know we had this land," RPS Finance Director John Carlson told the school board. "There would be nothing we could do with that land."
The backstory dates to 1874, according to information provided to the Rochester School Board. The school district's attorney, John Beatty, said the district didn't own the land per se. He said it would be more accurate to say the district had an interest in the property. Essentially, the landowner at the time gave the school district the right to use the property.
The documentation establishing the district's interest read:
"It is also understood that if the above described land ceases to be used for school purposes, that it should revert back to the original owner." The document also specified the area should be "well-fenced."
The district referenced in the document was dissolved in 1963, and another school district obtained "some of the assets" of the dissolved district, according to the information compiled by RPS. In 1969, the district that had received some of the dissolved district's assets was itself consolidated into what is now Rochester Public Schools.
Rather than go through the process of determining whether the school district would still have a claim to the land, Beatty said the parties decided to do a quitclaim deed to iron out the situation quickly.
"The current school district would have an absolute bear of a time running around the country trying to figure out every single piece of property that a farmer might have given it an interest in for a one-room school house," Beatty said.