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School district buys land for buses

A for sale sign is shown on Stower Drive in Worthington. District 518 bought the land from the city for $140,000 and will construct a bus barn on the property. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- District 518 is in the process of purchasing some land for the city.

At a Monday night meeting of the Economic Development Authority (EDA), the city of Worthington approved the sale of 7.1 acres of land to the Worthington school district, pending some conditions.

"This is part of the overall plan that the district and school board has been working toward helping to create part of the long-term vision of the district that will meet not only the needs of the students, but also the needs of parents in the community," District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said earlier Monday.

The city was asking 55 cents per square foot for the land, or a total of $170,101.80. However, the two parties agreed on a price of $140,000.

"I think this is a very favorable price," Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said during the meeting.

The EDA's concern was the potential costs associated with the sale.

"I would like to see us net at the 140," Oberloh said. "I think we were up in that 175 when we first started talking about it. But the time we net, we're going to net somewhere in the 120 or 127."

The extra costs the EDA was concerned with was an environmental study, which is required.

"If that Phase 1 thing comes back and there's mitigation that has to be done in order to complete the sale, it's on our dime, that's the way this thing reads," Oberloh said, referencing the purchase agreement. "I don't think we've found a piece of property in this city that we've been involved in, they've all had something that has to be taken care of."

The motion was made and carried to approve the sale, with the conditions that the city is not required to mitigate and both parties mutually agree on who does the environmental study.

The land is located on Stower Drive, across from the Nobles County Fairgrounds.

"That land would be for the construction of a bus terminal," Landgaard said. "What happens with building a bus terminal is related to the fact that either the district builds it and owns it and at the end has an asset, or you end up paying for that through the vendors or company that ends up running your bus services. One way or another, you pay for it."

Landgaard said the new building will help protect the buses.

"One of the problems we've had -- previously we had a long-term bus company and now we have another bus company," he said. "One of the expectations as part of this is we want to make sure the buses are in under cover. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened the last couple of years. We're just trying to ensure we're meeting those expectations that we have."

At this point, no decisions have been made about the size or cost of the structure.

"We have some estimates, but at this point we're not totally sure what the end product or end facility will cost us," Landgaard said.

The district has hired Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. of Worthington as the architect/engineer for the project, with an anticipated fee of $77,000.

"What would happen is we'd try and get this started and the project off and moving and hopefully have occupancy sometime in the fall," Landgaard said. "It's pretty cut and dry. It's trying to move things forward and get things in place so we have the services the community expects and this is one element of that."

Before the school could move forward too fast, the land had to be acquired, which happened Monday night.

"We've got our school board meeting next week." Landgaard said. "It will be one of those things that will click along pretty quickly hopefully.

"It will be a good thing. We're excited."

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.