Keep Redfield Middle School group apparent high bidder on old school property

A group called Keep Redfield Middle School was the apparent high bidder on the former Redfield Middle School when bids were opened Tuesday afternoon.

The White Hall School District put the property up for sale in December after closing the school at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Students were transferred last fall to White Hall Middle School.

School Superintendent Larry Smith said the bid, signed by Todd Dobbins, who was listed as president of the group, was $70,112, or $2,862 more than the next highest bid, which came from Lynn Beach, who bid $67,250.

Two other bids were received by the school district on the property: $60,111 from D’Lane Kight and $15,689 from Daniel Hanson, who listed an address in Texas.

Smith said the bids will be submitted to the district’s bond attorney to verify that the district met all its requirements, and if that was done, will be sent back to the district’s board of directors for a vote on whether to accept the high bid or not.

Bids on the school were originally scheduled to be open two weeks ago, but that was delayed when attorney Paul Byrd of Little Rock obtained an injunction on behalf of two groups and a number of individuals.

That injunction was lifted after a lengthy hearing Monday afternoon in front of Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis.

Also Tuesday, state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office issued an opinion that it would be legal for a school district to give away real property, but only if certain “significant constitutional and statutory restrictions” were met.

“I question that a school district could simply give away surplus property without first determining that no more advantageous use of the property exists, even if that ‘use’ is simply to realize financial benefits in the form of sales revenues,” the AG opinion stated. “Assuming the property is reasonably deemed surplus and, possibly, unmarketable, a donation of the property … might withstand scrutiny as constitutional.”

The opinion goes on to state that a court might also consider whether the gift “indeed serves the educational interests of the district’s students” if it were considering the legality of such a case.

State Sen. Stephanie Flowers requested the opinion. Additional questions were asked about how any owed bond money might complicate a donation, but the AG opinion did not go into detail in addressing them, stating that they involve contract law rather than constitutional law and that an opinion would have to come from someone with detailed knowledge of the specific situation.

The school building at Redfield was constructed in 1939 by the Federal Works Progress Administration.