When a school district wants to build a new school building, they need a piece of ground to put it on. And the Carbon School Board has voted unanimously to buy property in Helper for a new junior high facility.
In a series of town hall meetings late last month and early this month, the board and the administration took input from communities across the county on the possibility of building a school to replace the aging Helper Junior High facility. With that they also talked about some land they had in mind for just such a purpose.
"We believe we have addressed all the concerns and objections that were presented to us at the town hall meetings and we are ready to move ahead now," said Board President Wayne Woodward.
But even at the meeting where they ultimately approved the land purchase, a member of the Helper community and former member of the school board advised them to look closer at the land they were considering.
"I am still concerned about the Helper Junior High situation," said Walt Borla during the public comment period of the meeting. "I am asking you to look at my suggestions. I'm aware of this piece of property and it is on a flood plain. I really think you could find a better site to put it."
The property is an 18.6 acre site is located in northwest Helper and is the parcel is presently owned by five different people. The board has negotiated for a $9,000 per acre purchase price, and 17 shares of water at $1,000 per share.
"I can't say enough good about the people who are willing to sell this property to us," said Woodward. "They are community minded individuals, who are giving us a very fair price on this piece of land."
The board has put $1,000 per owner earnest money down on the property.
Borla's comments were not lost on the board, however. The approval to buy the property is contingent on many studies of the land including the flood plain issue.
"It is prudent to have the property under contract now," said Board Member Jeff Richens. "With this vote the property is locked up and we can do our due diligence on the purchase."
The board has set a March 15 deadline for doing that, although they admitted that could be extended if needed.
Woodward also pointed out that buying the property does not lock a future board into any kind of decision about a new building. Plans are not set to start any kind of construction for a few years, and another board could change the intent.
The present Helper Junior High is about 80 years old and despite a large renovation a decade ago it is proving to be outmoded and possibly unsafe as time passes. The district had looked at the possibility of closing the school at one time years ago. However, by doing that the students would have to be bused to Mont Harmon Junior High in Price and that would grow that school's population to the point where the facility and administration of it could be unduly taxed.
In town meetings held in the east county, Price and Helper, there was little opposition to building a new junior high, and some support among many who attended.