July 18, 2024

ECC land purchase in limbo

Despite initiating the sale and signing a purchase agreement, development company Keystone Equity Group, LLC say they are no longer interested in the purchase of 5.41 acres of property from Creston Community School District.

During Monday’s Creston School Board Meeting, Creston Superintendent Deron Stender said he attempted to contact Keystone soon after the school board unanimously approved the sale last month, but was unable to reach anyone.

“I contacted [Keystone] by phone and by email, didn’t receive any return communications. Long story short, ran into somebody who said Keystone was thinking about backing out,” Stender said. “We worked with Keystone, tried to communicate with them, finally got ahold of them in an email and he just said, we’re going to go in a different direction. He didn’t give any specifics, so I’ve continued to try to get more information.”

Stender said he was contacted early Monday by Keystone, saying they were open to a conversation later this week. As the school board is still unaware of Keystone’s intentions, the board discussed what the different options were going forward.

“They do owe us for the earnest money. That’s about $6,400, that would probably cover our legal fees,” Stender said. “By law, the purchase offer is a binding agreement. They are owners of that land.”

Stender said if Keystone does not want to accept the land, the school district can take them to court. However, he worries what it means for the rest of the land, which Keystone originally expressed interest in purchasing as well.

“Where I’m kind of in limbo is, does that entice them to purchase the second phase, which they were interested in at one time, or what happens?” Stender said. “Are they no longer interested in the second phase, will they continue to develop the first phase? That’s why I’m trying to get a hold of them, to say, we’re willing to work with you.”

When it comes to the ECC land, members of the school board expressed their hope for a better outcome than other abandoned school buildings.

“When we left all those schools behind, Lincoln School… That’s an awful looking place right now,” board member Sharon Snodgrass said. “One of our charges is to not leave a mess behind. If we abandon a place, we don’t want to leave it a mess. We want to have it be something productive on the tax roles or we want it to look good.”

A nearby property owner attended the meeting, asking a few questions on what the purchase of the land would mean for it’s neighbors.

“Where we live, right there on the north side on Pine Street... Going through our area, the ground on the west side of the track is what is touted as being a flood plain,” Clint Williams. “Once they start construction there and they dig down a little bit or even dig up, does that push more water our direction?”

He also asked about the green space that is used by much of the neighborhood.

Stender said much of the flooding and green space issues would be tackled in the second phase of Keystone’s proposed project, following the sale of the ECC building.

“As soon as we got out of that building next year, they wanted this space here, so this was going to be apartment housing on this side here. The playground is staying,” Stender said. “they were going to make a retention pond basically where the bottom of what they were calling the sledding hill, basically to the playground. They were going to build that up, and that would basically be the space ... to absorb the floodplain and the water would just recess back kind of like it does now towards the south. I wouldn’t anticipate it was going to push water back on either side, but I don’t know that.”

Stender said he hopes to have more information on Keystone’s plans at the July board meeting.

In other school board news...

Red Lion Renewables founder Terry Dvorak shared new options for fulfilling a $1 million USDA grant toward solar energy. With Alliant Energy building upon Dvorak’s original idea of a solar grid west of the high school and middle school, Dvorak said they had about a year to plan and complete a solar project with the grant funds.

Various options included solar panels on the roof of the schools, creating new car port canopies or finding new space on the school’s property for a solar grid. The school board didn’t jump at any of these options, due largely to the upcoming need for repair of both the schools’ roofs and the parking lots. The board plans to continue ideating with the hopes of not losing the grant.

The school board approved the June 2024 list of contracts and resignations.

Resignations: Karen Guthrie, HS ELA teacher; Chad Malmanger, Head HS boys soccer coach; Connie Swanson, para; Shayla Findley, 5th grade teacher.

Contracts: Alisa Phillips, K-5 art teacher (24-25 school year); Rebecca Mason, para (24-25 school year).

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.