County Land Sale For Campus Moves Ahead

College board worried about budget crunch if county cuts GCC loose

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Insisting she will not “simply let the community college loose,” Supervisor Tommie Martin Friday presented details of the proposed land sale for a new, four-year college in Payson to Gila Community College board members.

Martin took issue with an earlier suggestion made by other supervisors that the county would not only sell the land, but shift to the community college the $300,000 annual cost of maintaining its existing buildings.

“Handing you off that property doesn’t help in the near future,” said Martin.

Martin also touched on the details of the land sale to the Rim Country Educational Alliance (SLE) and her thoughts on how GCC should use that money.

“I believe this money should be a nest egg. It could be pretty important for future funding,” said Martin.

Both Tom Loeffler and Larry Stephenson, the two northern Gila County GCC members on the board, have expressed concerns over the county’s impending land transfer. Stephenson wrote a list of principles he would like to see honored before the transfer takes place. He wants to:

• Spell out how the college will benefit from the land sale.

• Design a seamless connection between the campuses.

• Ensure the buildings serve only educational purposes.

• Guarantee the sale will benefit the whole GCC district — not just the Payson campus.

Loeffler had expressed his concerns about the effects of the land transfer in a prior supervisors’ meeting. Several supervisors at that time said the county should transfer the entire 55 acres it owns in trust for the community college, not just the 9 to 15 acres the Educational Alliance wants to buy for phase one of a college campus, most likely occupied by Arizona State University.

Loeffler agreed with Stephenson on most points, but said he also wanted to make sure the land transfer was “financially easier” for GCC.

Currently, the county pays $300,000 to maintain buildings on the existing

community college campus. Supervisor Shirley Dawson had suggested the county should transfer to GCC the roughly 40 acres the Alliance doesn’t want for the university. That could mean GCC would then have to start making payments on the existing facilities.

Because it looks like the impending transfer will occur in the middle of GCC’s fiscal year, Loeffler reminded the supervisors that GCC has not budgeted for this hit to their bottom line.

In the last county meeting, Dawson told the GCC board that it needs to “grow up and take responsibility” for any costs incurred from taking over land — including the upkeep of the existing buildings. Due to timing issues, the county has held land in trust for GCC for years. State statutes require the county to complete the transfer to GCC by the end of next year.

Martin said she wants to take care of the concerns of Stephenson and Loeffler before completing the transfer. The two other supervisors have indicated GCC should take the property back sooner rather than later.

Stephenson then asked whether the county or GCC will negotiate with the Alliance to complete the sale of 15 acres the Alliance wants as the site for the 1,000-student phase one of the new, four-year campus.

Although Martin reported that an appraiser will set a value on the property

in time for a bill of sale to reach supervisors by their Nov. 15 meeting, she had no idea how much the land is worth.

“However, it’s (the transfer) more smooth. We need to do this in the easiest way,” said Martin.

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