The former Redfield Middle School, which occupies an eight-acre site, will be sold, the White Hall School Board decided in a regular meeting Tuesday night.
A sale procedure prescribed by legal counsel was enacted with a unanimous vote. Initiation of once-weekly advertising in The Commercial and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is to begin Dec. 14 and continue until Jan. 4. A bid opening is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Julius Brown Administration Building.
If the bid equals or exceeds the property’s appraised value, guidance dictates that the board will accept the highest offer by a “responsible” bidder — one who can pay cash.
The property “cannot be sold for less than the appraised amount” unless approved by the board and reviewed by attorneys with the district’s current bond issue, process guidance states.
If the bond attorneys determine the district has met all sale-related legal requirements associated with the bond issue, the board could then enter into negotiations with the highest bidder.
Closing is expected to be within 30 days of the bid’s acceptance and the board’s final approval.
Superintendent Larry Smith said the property has an estimated value of $395,000.
“But I doubt that’s the true worth,” he said. “That’s a starting point.”
He then outlined several particulars that must be considered for a more accurate worth.
Smith and the board agreed that the district wants “fair market value” for the school — which was constructed in 1938 — and its grounds.
The board voted in January to close RMS at the end of the 2012-13 academic year. All sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders within the district now attend White Hall Middle School. The district maintains Hardin Elementary School in Redfield.
Ron Meredith of the Keep Redfield Middle School Task Force addressed Smith and the board before the directors considered the superintendent’s proposals on the RMS disposition. The task force was organized on the premise that the best option to ensure the property’s future operation would be establishment of a charter school.
Meredith asked that the board delay a decision on the matter until a state attorney general’s opinion could be received on the issue. He repeated a plea that the property be donated to a non-profit interest that would utilize the site not as a school but rather a community center, calling such an arrangement “a proper disposition.”
Redfield’s City Council agreed in February to petition the White Hall School Board to deed RMS to a non-profit group that would establish a charter school there. But Smith said last month that the district’s attorney, Spencer Robinson, had advised against such a donation. On Tuesday night, Smith said he had been told the district could donate to a city or county government since those entities “are the same as a school district” in Internal Revenue Service figuring, but not to a non-profit.
Smith responded to Meredith’s Tuesday night comments by saying an attorney general’s opinion wouldn’t change legalities of the issue as agreed upon by several district sources. Smith said IRS and other federal laws dictated district actions by taking precedent over state law.
Board President Raymond Jones assured several Redfield attendees that the panel had been reviewing the matter with Smith for some time and wasn’t rushing to a decision with its vote.
Task force member Scott Dobbins countered that Smith’s statements were merely the superintendent’s opinion. Jones replied that Smith’s stance instead represented legal opinion.