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Lease negotiations may delay on-post schools
Lily Baker - photo by Courier file photo
Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer briefed the Board of Education on Thursday about recent issues surrounding the lease for a Fort Stewart middle school. The snags may push back the school’s original 2010 opening date.
Scherer said she doesn’t feel comfortable recommending the board enter into the current draft of the 50-year lease with Fort Stewart for two reasons.
The first issue, she said, has to do with what would happen if, in the future, the Army ordered the post to close and the building is left vacant. Scherer said she wants assurance the BoE will still have access to its $20 million investment.
“We’re asking that they give us the first option to purchase the property,” Scherer said.
Second, the superintendent is concerned about Fort Stewart’s request that, at the end of the lease, the school system will be responsible for restoring the building to its original condition (which could include tearing down the structure) and that they replenish the property with trees.
Most of the board members agreed that more negotiation is necessary before they sign anything.
“You’re absolutely right,” Chairman Lily Baker said of Scherer’s concerns. “It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good at all.”
Scherer did, however, point out to the board that if they are unable to come to an agreement about the lease in the next few days, the middle school’s fall 2010 opening date will be unlikely since the current construction schedule is already tight.
Before taking action to officially alter the timeline, the board asked director of maintenance Roger Osbourne to find out the exact date when construction must start in order to make the current deadline or before building costs increase.
Verdell Jones was the only board member who was uneasy with the idea of postponing the lease approval. She said certain clauses are often standard in government leases and aren’t a major concern for her.
Scherer and the board decided against signing the lease and agreed to continue communicating with the Army Corps of Engineers to come to an agreement that would not change the 2010 opening. However, the BoE also is prepared to deal with a shift in the timeline.
“We will not sign it without us being guarded and taken care of,” Baker said.
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