A-W Consensus: Set public hearing to consider sale of Total Motors building

Posted June 15, 2017 at 5:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

Although no actual date has been set for the Akron-Westfield School Board to hold a public hearing on selling Total Motors’ main sales-service building, that was the board members’ final consensus at a work session on June 5.

Facilities Committee member Nick Mathistad told fellow board members the committee had come up with three options for Total Motors’ three parcels.

Total Motors’ property includes the main sales-service building on the east side of Iowa Highway 12, the grassy car lot on the west side of Iowa Highway 12, and a block-concrete body shop building on Mill Street near Third Street.

The three options Mathistad presented were:

• Keep all three parcels;

• Sell all three parcels; or

• Lease the main sales-service building to Central Valley Ag, which has made an offer on the entire Total Motors property, and the district would keep the other two parcels.

“As a Facilities Committee, we are excited to sell the one piece of the property,” said Mathistad, noting community members were not in favor of having students off the main campus.

Then he listed several options for the Total Motors parcels.

Sales-Service Building

First option was to sell the sales-service building parcel to Central Valley Ag (CVA).

Then move A-W’s vehicle fleet garage, located on the eastern edge of the current school’s campus, to Total Motors’ grassy car lot.

This would entail raising the ground level and building a concrete foundation with partial walls to protect the facility from any flooding as this area is in the Big Sioux River’s floodplain.

This option included adding electrical service and moving the district’s buses from their current site, which the district rents, to the grassy car lot area.

It was noted the buses would not be put in the building but it would continue to house the district’s vans and cars as it does now.

“We would still end up with substantial land adjacent to the building for future development,” said Mathistad.

He noted the cost to move the fleet garage to this location was estimated between $120,000 to $150,000.

With that cost, Board President Nick Schoenfelder suggested just getting rid of the current fleet garage and constructing a new building.

He also noted moving the fleet garage off-campus, the district could eliminate the fuel station, cutting the district’s insurance costs.

A second option with this site was to keep the building and lease a portion of it to Central Valley Ag, explained Schoenfelder.

The school district could keep the front half of this building, possibly replacing the glass front with garage doors and creating a fleet garage there. Then the district would share the back half, renting two of the three bays to CVA and keeping the third bay for a transportation maintenance area.

A third option was selling this parcel to CVA with the district leasing one bay from CVA for transportation maintenance.

Mathistad and Schoenfelder weren’t sure if CVA would lease the property back to the district but thought they might as long as students weren’t involved. Mathistad noted CVA had said they didn’t need this whole building. Schoenfelder said if the district leased the front part, they wouldn’t be able to change the front for a fleet garage.

School districts aren’t allowed to improve someone else’s property, said Thompson.

The five board members present also discussed constructing a bus barn in the grassy car lot in the future and using the main sales-service building for all of the district’s transportation needs: 1) the district’s transportation maintenance (one bay), 2) fleet garage (the front half); and 3) bus parking (where Total Motors had vehicles on the west and south side of this building). Then CVA could have the north service center parking as their entrance and exit.

The board also discussed with administration how this would affect staff’s daily fleet usage needs and transportation director’s duties — the pros and cons of having all transportation equipment at one site off-campus.

Board Member Jodi Thompson favored leasing space from CVA because of having ongoing building maintenance costs.

The board conferred with Maintenance Director Bob Brewington on maintenance. He noted there would be additional maintenance costs and time for snow removal and lawn care. Brewington said having a skid loader with a bucket would be an advantage.

Block Concrete

Body Shop Building

Currently, the City of Akron uses this building for storage but pays no rent.

School officials have given them similar options as they have CVA for the main sales-service building: buy it, lease it or vacate it, said Schoenfelder.

The Facilities Committee has considered using this as the district’s transportation maintenance facility.

“There are a lot of ways we could look at the Total Motors’ parcels,” said Schoenfelder. “It just depends on what direction we want to go.”

Impact on A-W

With keeping the grassy car lot, Mathistad shared an idea that would drastically change the next bond plan from the previous two.

The idea was after moving the current approximately 10,000 square feet fleet garage to the grassy car lot, then the school board, administration, and Facilities Committee could do some “musical chairs” with areas in the current school building by constructing a new up-to-date Technology Center for Industrial Arts and Agriculture departments in the current fleet garage space.

A new Industrial Arts-Agriculture facility could give students cutting-edge training in diesel mechanics, body shop, plumbing and welding, said Schoenfelder, noting a new Technology Center could be built closer to the building than the current fleet garage is and there would still be room for delivery trucks to get to the kitchen dock.

Building an unattached Technology Center would also be cheaper as it would not need to match the current school building’s exterior — it wouldn’t need to be brick and there would be less building code compliance issues.

Engineering costs would also be cheaper, possibly cut in half, since not expanding with building additions, said Mathistad.

Some of the new concrete paving may have to be torn up to run electrical and water services to a new Technology Center because it wasn’t part of the original Long-Term Facilities Plan when they concreted the parking area around the fleet garage in 2016, said Schoenfelder.

If we build a new Technology Center, then we could turn the old Industrial Arts/Agriculture area into a multipurpose area, possibly weight room by removing the overhead doors and installing some lighting, said Mathistad. This would eliminate the bond’s two-story addition and actually be larger in square footage than the addition.

In the new Technology Center, a maintenance bay could be added for transportation needs and/or storing the district’s tractors, mowers and other lawn care-snow removal equipment, he said, explaining the current fleet garage is about 10,000 square feet while the current Industrial Arts-Agriculture area is about 7,500 square feet.

The new Technology Center could have some storage space, too, said Mathistad, explaining this could allow leaving the current wrestling room where it is.

Another idea was to remodel the Science area instead of expanding its size with an addition, use a classroom across from the current science classrooms, he said. This classroom is currently used for Information Technology storage.

These ideas would decrease the projected bond costs significantly, said Mathistad. “The end goal is to stay in existing footprint we have as much as we can and kind of move things around and make it better for students.”

An advantage of not expanding the school building’s footprint is it eliminates the need for additional mechanical utility areas, said Schoenfelder. Of course, these ideas are all dependent on whether the district’s voters would pass a bond or not.

Board’s Consensus

“It’s good to get rid of the (bond’s) multi-purpose two-story addition because I think it hindered things,” said Thompson. “As far as a bond issue, I think that’s a step if we can utilize other areas for that and we focus on education, instruction, academics.”

With the Total Motors parcels, “one of the really appealing assets of getting that property was having the flexibility for transportation and students,” said Mathistad, explaining with not being able to use it for students because of community’s desire for everything on one campus and CVA pointing out insurance liability issues if they owned it, the main sales-service building “isn’t as appealing to me.”

“Another large component is putting a business in there that could possibly bring more jobs,” added Mathistad, “and would get us a lot more community support for a bond.”

“But they are also a for-profit business that can build a facility,” said Schoenfelder. “We’re still looking at what is the greater good of the school district, not the City of Akron, the overall district.”

“If we just use it for transportation and we can sell it off for what we have in it and keep a piece of property for free, it makes perfect sense,” said Mathistad. “We can do whatever we want with the fleet garage…we don’t have to make that decision right now. We definitely have options with moving the fleet garage somewhere and getting some real estate up on campus to improve facilities. I’m advocating for selling the main building to CVA, keeping the other two parcels. With the block building, use it for storage or sell it to the city. It’s not only working for school district needs but what community and city needs.”

“It’s close to campus,” said Board Member Josh Martinsen. “On campus we don’t have much space for transportation.”

The board also discussed the lease option — leasing it to CVA or from CVA.

Thompson wasn’t sure if the building was sold to CVA that CVA officials would give the district the great deal they get with the current bus barn rental site.

Mathistad favored selling it since it couldn’t be used for students.

Thompson agreed, liking the “musical chairs” options discussed.

Schoenfelder read a letter from Board Member Cory Tucker, which stated Tucker favored selling the sales-service building for a break-even cost and relocating the district’s fleet garage.

“If we keep the (sales-service) building and not move fleet garage, then just get rid of fleet garage,” suggested Schoenfelder.

For Board Member Deb Jordt, keeping the sales-service building and leasing it to CVA was her first choice. She did not favor donating the block concrete building to the City of Akron. She liked the idea of getting all transportation at one site.

“If selling the (sales-service) building, we need to have a plan in place justifying the sale to the patrons in the district,” said Jordt, reminding fellow board members that 190 people in the southern end of the district had signed petitions not to sell it.

Jordt commended the Facilities Committee for “thinking outside the box and coming up with all these ideas.”

“The biggest thing we’ve done is we haven’t put a plan out there and said we have to stick with it,” said Mathistad. “We’ve been kind of evolving with it, trying to listen to all involved parties and not taken a stand on a plan that was developed two years ago.”

“As a result of buying this property, we have a whole lot of other options,” said Jordt.

The consensus was to set a public hearing regarding the sale of the sales-service building to CVA. They set a public hearing date for the end of June but after this work session, they discovered CVA wouldn’t have the purchase agreement ready in time for the school district to meet legal publication requirements.

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