If voters decide on Nov. 6 to allow the Payson Unified School District (PUSD) to sell, lease or trade the Frontier Elementary School (FES) site, it has some options.
Yet, neighbors living in the FES area hope they have a say in what happens too.
At a recent school board meeting, district business manager Kathie Manning presented options available to the district from selling, leasing or trading the FES property, while FES neighbors lobbied for a voice in the conversation.
Superintendent Ron Hitchcock said the state limits what the district may do with any income from FES. The state would also require the new owner to build in accordance with the existing, residential zoning — unless the district seeks a rezoning from the town.
“The site would go back to residential purposes, unless the new owner goes to the town and converts the space to educational purposes,” Hitchcock said. “Currently, PUSD has a conditional use permit for educational purposes.”
Manning reported on the choices the board faces if the FES property started generating income.
She said the board could either apply any income to bond repayments or save it in a capital fund to improve school sites. The district could also set aside the money to pay for another school site if the enrollment increased.
Board president Barbara Underwood suggested the board consider saving the money. “This year we could pay off part of the bond, but what if next year we need a new classroom? How would we pay it off?” She suggested the money go toward a building fund.
Manning reported that PUSD must repay almost $34 million in principle to bonds.
She agreed that paying down the debt would be a good choice, but the income from FES might not go far.
“Our indebtedness is over $33 million. That would make us nowhere close to reducing the debt,” she said. “A school has a unique usage — it will be really hard to get an appraisal (and significant price).”
But board member Barbara Shepherd liked the idea of paying down the debt.
“I don’t see how paying down the debt doesn’t help us,” she said.
Then the FES neighbors weighed in.
Eileen Daniels, a former PUSD board member and current resident of the FES neighborhood, offered to help in any way.
“If this passes ... and gives you permission to sell, lease or exchange the property, I would go through the neighborhood and see if we can be included in the conversation so we don’t see front loaders and building equipment and we don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “I do care what sort of construction is in the area. It affects my home.”
She said she has no interest in someone putting in a halfway house. She likes the safety and neighborliness of the area and would not care to have to call the police on a regular basis.
Shepherd assured her that before anything happened, the town would have a planning and zoning meeting.
John Wakelin, another FES neighbor, not only wishes to be in on the conversation, he offered ideas as well.
“That southeast area has no playgrounds or school grounds,” he said of that quadrant of the town of Payson. “There is no place for kids to go. At one time there was talk of putting a YMCA in Frontier. There is no specificity of what can go in there. I want to be part of the conversation.”
Hitchcock said that if someone else purchases the property, it reverts back to an R3 zone.
He said the R3 zone is for mobile homes. The area around FES currently has many prefabricated homes.
Hitchcock agreed it all depends on whether the voters agree to allow the district to sell, lease or trade the property on Nov. 6.