By the end of the year, Gila Community College (GCC) and the Rim Country Educational Alliance (SLE) will own 54 acres between them, presently managed by the Gila County Board of Supervisors.
“If things go as planned, on Nov. 1 a quit claims deed will be on the table at the board of supervisors’ meeting (and) … a sales plan in front of them by Nov. 15,” said Don McDaniel, Gila County manager.
The community college would then own the five acres where the campus sits, plus 50 acres of vacant land — some of which would then be sold to the Alliance to build a four-year university next door.
Good news for the supervisors, but GCC board member Tom Loeffler has concerns about the impact on the community college of owning all that land.
“The reason we (GCC) have not asked to use this land is because of finances,” said Loeffler, noting that Gila County has long paid $300,000 annually to maintain the GCC facilities.
McDaniel and his county staff originally thought at the joint supervisor and GCC board meeting on Sept. 27, the transfer of land would pose numerous complications. He cautioned the board these challenges could delay the land transfer until after the beginning of the year.
Instead, McDaniel’s research proved state statutes not only supported a quit claim deed to GCC, but also a straight forward sale to the Alliance, he reported at the board meeting on Oct. 18.
“We considered this as a sale of private property, but according to statute, the SLE is like a city. State law provides (for us) the conditions to sell to the SLE as another community,” said McDaniel.
When a government entity, such as the supervisors sell property to another government entity, such as a city, the state does not require public announcements or an auction, said McDaniel. Further speeding the transfer and sale of land, the Alliance has a clear plan with drawings of how buildings would sit on the land, said McDaniel.
Already public works surveyors have laid out stakes with flags, he said.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans has the survey paperwork on his desk. He said that if a line were drawn from Graham Ranch Road south to Highway 260, the Alliance will own everything east of that line and GCC will own everything west. The county has not determined the exact amount of acreage GCC and the Alliance will own, but approximations are that GCC will own 38 acres and the SLE 15, said Evans.
Evans gave Supervisor Shirley Dawson credit for moving the project along quickly.
“She went from being a skeptic to a real supporter after sitting down with the Alliance and having her concerns addressed,” said Evans.
Loeffler still has concerns, however. He said his primary concern revolved around finances. Especially since the $300,000 needed to maintain the buildings on the land the county manages is not included in the current budget.
“Is there any way to make this financially easier for the GCC board?” asked Loeffler. He hopes the county has a grant for economic development available.
Dawson said GCC should take over responsibility for its own facilities. “GCC must grow up and take responsibility,” she said.
McDaniel indicated that staff feels proceeds from the sale of land to the Alliance should go to the college.
Loeffler wanted to make sure that ASU would have enough land since the eastern portion of the property did not offer enough space to create a college campus. He also wanted to restrict the building of commercial or industrial buildings on the piece of land the Alliance would purchase.
Loeffler asked that a memorial trail be incorporated into any future design of the two campuses. Finally, he wanted a design for the two campuses that would create a seamless interface.
“With regards to the college maintenance, there will be income to GCC from the sale of the land,” said Dawson.