Unhappy with a “low” appraisal from the county on land near the Gila Community College (GCC) campus, the GCC board voted Thursday to hire their own appraiser and put restrictions on the sale of land to the Rim Country Educational Alliance (SLE).
However, even if the GCC board can agree on a price, no state statute exists that allows GCC to sell land to the SLE, said Tom Loeffler, GCC board member.
Gila County supervisors would need to act as the selling agent for GCC and the supervisors will deed over 32 acres to GCC, while holding the rest to offer to the alliance.
A Tucson-based appraiser hired by the county valued the land the SLE could purchase at $25,000 an acre, Loeffler said. What has the GCC board up in arms is a town appraisal that valued one acre of land sold to the alliance at $50,000. That one-acre is in the middle of 52 acres held by the county for GCC.
“I do not understand the relatively low value they have placed on our land,” said Larry Stephenson, GCC board member.
“I don’t believe we should have a fire sale,” said Robert Ashford, GCC board president.
Ashford and the board would prefer the county deed the 52 acres to GCC to hold until an agreement is signed guaranteeing a four-year college will come to Payson. The board feels waiting may increase the value of the land.
“This might be a bit of a rush to make a sale to the SLE,” Stephenson said. “Maybe we should wait to sell this until ASU does come to Payson.”
“If the county is willing to deed the property to us, the college can hold this in trust,” said Ashford.
The board voted to hire their own appraiser at a cost of $7,000.
The board also voted to adopt a resolution written by Stephenson that supports the sale of land for a four-year campus in Payson, but with restrictions.
The resolution asks the supervisors that any land sold to the alliance: be used to build only a four-year university, not for-profit buildings; appraise the land according to fair market value; allow GCC to have first right of refusal if the SLE decides to sell the land; use the proceeds of any sale for capital improvements to the community college; and request the county continue to pay for any maintenance costs on the property deeded to GCC for the remainder of the year.
On Tuesday, county supervisors will consider a quitclaim deed to transfer the 32 acres to GCC. The GCC board is concerned about who will pay an estimated $300,000 in annual maintenance costs for GCC buildings.
GCC Dean Stephen Cullen reported to the board that John Nelson, deputy county manager, said the college would need to take over all maintenance costs when it takes over the 32 acres.
County Supervisor Tommie Martin said the county would address maintenance costs at an upcoming meeting.
When asked about the appraisals, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the town hired its own appraiser and the county hired theirs. When the SLE receives an offer from the board of supervisors on the land, the SLE will hire its own assessor to guarantee they are paying fair market value, he said.