Re-1 opens door to condemnation, seeks to close door on recall effort
The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board Tuesday night agreed on a timeline for booting out businesses to expand Glenwood Springs High School.At the same time, the board took action it hopes will make it harder for recall organizers to give the boot to two board members in a dispute over the expansion plan.Voting 5-0, the board authorized beginning condemnation if the owners of properties targeted for the school expansion don’t agree to sell by Oct. 7.At the same time, the board decided it believes petitioners seeking to recall two board members need to reach a higher threshold for signatures for the recall to take place.Based on the board’s interpretation of state law, organizers might need to obtain about 6,000 signatures on petitions to force a recall election for Sue Hakanson and Bruce Wampler. That compares to about 1,800 signatures for Hakanson and 1,300 for Wampler under an interpretation given by Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf to recall organizers.Hakanson and Wampler abstained from the board’s vote challenging Alsdorf’s reading of the law.Recall organizers are targeting the two because of the board’s plans to expand the school to property now home to businesses including True Value Hardware and the Glenwood Springs Gymnastic Academy.The board set the Oct. 7 deadline in order to have time to pursue condemnation if necessary and still be on target to have access to the properties by Jan. 1, as called for by its construction time line.”It does not mean that we are going to go through condemnation proceedings for certain,” said Shannon Pelland, an Re-1 assistant superintendent.Pelland said an attorney has advised the district that the law stipulates the district would be able to take possession of property 30 days after filing for condemnation, but that it might taken even more time than that.Negotiations could continue with the property owners even while the condemnation process goes forward, she noted.For that matter, Pelland said she thinks the Sumers Family Trust, which owns the True Value property, wanted the district to pass the condemnation resolution before it would sign a contract to sell. The mere threat of condemnation results in a tax advantage for property owners, allowing them more time to reinvest the proceeds from the property sale before being hit with a capital gains tax, Pelland said.Said Hakanson, “It just strikes me as so funny that they want us to do this. … It just is such a funny deal. Who knew?”The condemnation resolution also applies to Terry Fattor, who owns the property that’s home to Glenwood Gymnastic Academy. The school district has reached a deal to buy from a third property owner.Board member Pete Delany said that while the word condemnation sounds ominous, “I’ve come to learn it’s a standard part of the process, and it’s what needs to be done to keep the project moving.”Neither Fattor nor the trust is refusing to negotiate, he said.”This isn’t a kicking-and-screaming-against-people’s-will kind of thing.”Said Wampler, “At this point we’re just taking the (condemnation) tool out of the toolbox. We’re not using it yet.””It actually sounds like the negotiations are going pretty well, pretty quickly.”Other district officials were hesitant to describe how negotiations were going, other than to say they were active.Meanwhile, the board threw a possible kink into the question of whether recall organizers will be able to turn in enough signatures to force an election.Alsdorf interpreted state law to require organizers to obtain the signatures of 40 percent of all those who voted for or against Hakanson, and likewise in the case of Wampler. But district officials believe the statute requires the petitions to be signed by 40 percent of all those who voted in the last district election, for or against any candidate. The district is still trying to find out how many total voters participated, but Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall believes more than 15,000 ballots were cast.Wall said the board had the right to challenge Alsdorf’s interpretation and contest the election. Wampler added that the board has the responsibility to govern the conduct of district elections.Added Delany, “It’s our responsibility, not just our authority, to make interpretations such as this.””Nice try for them, nice try,” recall organizer Jennifer Vanian said in an interview after the board’s action.”They’ll probably have to take that up with the secretary of state, because I know that’s who Mildred (Alsdorf) took that up with,” she said. “That’s who runs the show.”I don’t think they’re right. It can’t be right at this late hour; it’s impossible. If I were them I’d do the same thing,” she said.Wayne Pleasants, a manager at True Value, said the recall petitions must be turned in by Monday.As for the condemnation action, Pleasants said he expected it and considered it a “formality.” But he believes it could result in the store receiving very little money for relocation costs if it can find a place to move, based on the store’s lease language regarding what would happen if the property underwent condemnation.Said Delany, “We care about the people being displaced. It is always difficult to balance the good and the bad when we are trying to plan for the next 100 years.”But he said the high school expansion was approved by voters as part of the district’s successful bond issue election.”Moving forward with condemnation is getting us exactly where the community wanted us to go.”Pleasants said True Value isn’t giving up yet.”We’re never out of time until the bulldozers show up at the front door,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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