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County, BoE working land swap agreement
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A 2003 intergovernmental property exchange agreement between the Liberty County Board of Education and the County Commission was called into question Thursday when board members objected to stipulations that dictate how they may develop the land they received in the swap.
Under the 7-year-old agreement, the county acquired the site of the old Liberty Elementary School in Midway. Midway City Hall now sits on the plot; however, the school system has not yet developed the 32.5 acres on Airport Road that it received from the county.
The BoE had planned to use the property to build new schools as necessary based on student enrollment. No plans exist for development, however, because need is difficult to determine, LCSS Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said.
“We will use the airport property when we need to build new schools based on student growth. We really have no way to predict that, but if we got an explosive population growth — additional soldiers, new industry, etc. — then it could be needed in the next three to five years,” she said.
Scherer said when the entities entered into the property exchange agreement, the old Liberty Elementary School was outdated and the new LES facility had already been built. The cost of renovating an old building outweighs constructing a new one, which is why the county offered up the Airport Road site as a tradeoff for the old building, which, officials worried, might otherwise stand vacant and attract vandals.
During Thursday’s meeting, members of the commission and the school board discussed details in the agreement that BoE member said were never officially agreed on by both parties.  
“I don’t believe our attorney has ever seen the intergovernmental agreement,” school board member Carol Guyett said. “So I don’t know where it was all this time.”
Guyett and BoE Vice Chairwoman Marcia Anderson said that despite seeing the document for the first time only a month ago, they have only one problem with it: wording that restricts the BoE but not the county.
The board members and County Attorney Kelly Davis were uncertain about whether the school board’s attorney had seen the agreement.
“We never discussed anything other than we had a piece of property that the county actually needed, and we had purchased and built two additional schools in the Midway area and our growth at the time was in airport area. So we had something you needed and you had something we could potentially need,” Guyett said of the exchange.
“No one is really sure what happened with the lawyer situation,” Superintendent Judy Scherer wrote in an e-mail. “Our BOE minutes reflect that the exchange was discussed for several months and on Sept. 23, 2003, the BOE voted to trade the property. The actual intergovernmental agreement was written and signed after that time — apparently it was not reviewed by all of the members of the board and/or the BoE attorney.”
After nearly an hour-long discussion, the parties involved agreed to remove restrictive wording from the agreement that would have prohibited a private institution — such as a college — from building on the school’s Airport Road property in the future.
Everyone involved agreed the county property can only be used for governmental purposes and the school system will use its new property for educational purposes.
Commission Chairman John McIver said the original wording was put in place to ensure the BoE would not allow commercial development to occur when the county has larger investments — like the jail — already in place and a plan for the next development steps in the Walthourville area.
“We have a much larger investment out there than those 32 acres (that the school system has now),” County Administrator Joey Brown said. “Just like you would be concerned about your personal property and what goes on around it with over 100 acres and all invested out there.”
Davis agreed to amend the agreement and send it to the BoE and the commission on Monday for approval of a draft. The official approval will come after each entity has its meetings next month.
“Everybody can make sure it accurately reflects our discussions and that should be it,” said Davis of the altered agreement.

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