School Board approves sale of old Bluff Elementary School building, Bluff Town Council vote is forthcoming
The future of the old Bluff Elementary School is coming into clearer focus, but a vote by the Bluff town council (scheduled to take place after the press deadline) and securing financing still need to be finalized.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented normal operations at the new school, the San Juan School District opened their newest school building in Bluff in the fall of 2020.
The new elementary school, on the west side of Bluff, has left an empty building on four acres of land located on the east side of town.
The school district listed the building for sale for more than a year and at their June meeting, the San Juan School Board approved the sale of the building to the Town of Bluff for $307,500.
The board voted 3-1 to approve the sale. Board members Lucille Cody, Lori Maughan, and Nelson Yellowman voted to approve the sale, with board member Merri Shumway voting against. Board member Steven Black abstained from the vote, citing a potential conflict of interest.
With the school board accepting the offer from Bluff, the deal awaits approval from the Bluff Town Council, which was expected to come during their July 13 meeting.
Should the council vote to close on the deal, they would have 60 days to secure funding to purchase the building.
In Utah, negotiations regarding government purchase for the sale of property and land can occur behind closed doors.
An informational document from the town council has been placed on the Town of Bluff website. It outlined the timeline of the purchase of the building.
The document states that the town originally looked into purchasing the building in the spring of 2020. According to the document, the town sought to receive funding from the Community Impact Board (CIB).
Representatives from the CIB told the town the property would need significant improvements to create an operational public town hall.
An estimate by Tri-Hurst Construction placed the purchase and renovation of the building at $1.6 million.
At the time, the Bluff Town Council determined that was not economically feasible and withdrew its request to the CIB for funding.
Conversations with Zions Bank for bonding also determined it was not economically feasible.
In 2021, after the school district negotiated with another individual for the purchase of the building, the school district ceased negotiations and circled back to the town, according to the document from the Town of Bluff.
A non-compete clause from the district means the Town could not use the building for an elementary school.
Additionally, a new fire suppression system needs to be installed in the building. The new Bluff Elementary School’s suppression system cost up to $200,000.
At the July 6 meeting, the town council spent an hour discussing the purchase of the building. The discussion bumped all other items from the town agenda to their next meeting.
While no decisions were made at the meeting, some preliminary voting lines were drawn. Mayor Ann Leppanen said that she and Linda Sosa are likely to vote against approving the contract, while town council members Brant Murray, Jim Sayers and Luanne Hook are likely to vote for the purchase. No council members disputed the Mayor’s assessment at the meeting.
However, the merits of purchasing the building were certainly disputed as part of the July 6 meeting.
With the building being a much larger space than the city currently needs, it is anticipated the town would attempt to rent office spaces in the building.
Nonprofits, government agencies, and fledgling businesses are on the list of possible renters, although the city has not said they’ve secured any of those rentals at this point.
Members of the public addressed the council regarding the proposal and whether the purchase of the building offered an exciting opportunity for growth or a financial challenge for the town.
The council is expected to vote on the purchase of the building on July 13, after the press deadline.
Check sjrnews.com for an updated story with the meeting results.