The owner of a sandpit off Barlow Street that the city hopes to use for a new school site has rejected the price that two appraisers determined the land is worth, two city councilors said.
“They just refused the numbers we presented,” said city Councilor Mike Rimcoski.
The rejection of the approximately $1.5 million price tentatively offered to Scalia Construction creates a situation where city leaders need to decide whether to pick a different site or opt to take the property by eminent domain instead.
A decision may be made within weeks when a joint session of the City Council and the two school building committees is held to review the status of the negotiations.
The city plans to build two new 900-student schools, one in Forestville and one in West Bristol. The former Crowley auto dealership on Pine Street has been targeted for the Forestville site.
The status of negotiations with Crowley is less clear, but several officials said that the property there may have to be taken by eminent domain as well.
An appraisal done in January, by Aldieri Associates, pegs the Scalia land’s value at $1.5 million, according to a report given to the Press by an anonymous source.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said the second required appraisal for the 36-acre site picked a value “very close” to the one by Aldieri Associates.
Cockayne said that despite the refusal by Scalia to accept the appraised price, the deal is “moving forward.”
“Not really,” countered Rimcoski, who has long expressed skepticism about the site.
Rimcoski said the city has to pick up the pace if it wants to finish the architectural plans and begin construction by the “drop dead date” of June 13, 2010 – a date set by the state for the project to get started if Bristol wants to receive 73.9 percent of the funding for the two schools.
Tom O’Brien, the Board of Education member spearheading the effort to build new schools, recently called eminent domain “the fairest and most appropriate way” for the city to take ownership of the land needed for them.
Cockayne said that with the Scalia property, taking the land would not displace families or anyone.
“We’re just fighting over numbers,” Cockayne said.
Rimcoski said he agrees there is “a huge difference” between taking vacant land for a school and kicking families out of their homes for an industrial park or other municipal project.
Another key difference, Rimcoski said, is that if the city takes the land for the schools, it can begin working on the projects immediately.
The court cases that will follow about the price that the owners should receive, he said, won’t delay the work.
The two school panels are currently reviewing proposal from 19 architects interested in doing the detailed work needed for construction on both sites.
City Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said that officials “have a good amount of information to go through” just to weed down the number to determine who the finalists are.
The school system’s long-term plan calls for closing Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three older elementary schools – O’Connell, Greene-Hills and Bingham.Students in the other two middle schools, at Northeast and Chippens Hill, would not switch to a kindergarten to eighth grade system when the new schools open, educators have said.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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