District plans to purchase land for future elementary

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Kalispell Public Schools will enter into an agreement to purchase a 12-acre parcel north of Kalispell as a future elementary school site.

The property is west of Whitefish Stage Road in the vicinity of Easthaven Baptist Church. Rose Crossing will serve as the northern boundary.

Stillwater Corp., which includes developers Jeff Claridge and his father, Rodger, of Kalispell, own the property. Stillwater Corp. is currently developing the 500-acre Kalispell North Town Center in which the future school site is located.

Kalispell Planning and Building Director Tom Jentz said the surrounding area of the proposed school site is intended for future residential development. Jentz compared the future development to Edgerton Elementary on Whitefish Stage Road and its surrounding neighborhoods.

The total cost of the land purchase is not to exceed $240,000. The purchase will be made using money the district already has in an interlocal fund. Although the district does not need to request funding from taxpayers, it does need voter approval to complete the purchase.

Another contingency is that the district approves the final dimensions of the parcel, which will be separated from a larger tract of land. The property must also be appraised.

Alice Ritzman of PureWest Real Estate told the Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees Tuesday that she thought the selling price was probably under market value and that Stillwater Corp. has agreed to split the cost of the appraisal, which must meet or exceed the asking price, with the district.

As part of the deal, Stillwater Corp. has agreed to pay costs associated with bringing city services such as water and sewer hookups to the site within five years from the closing date.

“In discussions it was pointed out that $240,000 or much more will easily be spent in bringing the services to the site,” Flatau said. “Again, rest assured there are contingencies in this agreement that ensure that city services will be there within five years, which is well within any time-frame that we would be using the property or considering another bond.”

Trustee Joe Brenneman raised a concern about whether the property had any issues of groundwater rising and pooling. Trustee Jack Fallon said he understood that past issues with rising groundwater have occurred in areas north of the property the district plans to purchase.

“Where we’re looking at is higher in elevation,” Fallon said.

The school district has been on a property search for several years to relieve overcrowding and plan for future enrollment growth, realizing available land is in limited supply.

When the district purchased the 25-acre property south of Kalispell in 2014, the search for land didn’t stop there.

The south property is the site of Jeannette Rankin Elementary, which is currently under construction and will accommodate up to 450 students.

Long-term facility plans for the site include a future middle school. During that year-long facility planning process, planners projected that the six elementary schools may reach capacity by 2021 or 2027, depending if enrollment grows between 1 to 2 percent annually.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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