News

Local group to buy Seabeck Elementary?

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Many Seabeck residents have felt down since the Central Kitsap School District voted to close Seabeck Elementary School last year. But they’re not out just yet.

During a Thursday meeting at the very school in question, a group called Neighbors for Seabeck Community Center brought together residents, school district employees and county officials to try and brainstorm ideas for saving the former school. Chief among those ideas: turn the school into a community center.

“We’ve had virtually nobody say it’s a bad idea,” said Loanna Day, acting chair of the steering committee for the group. “The notion is to keep it public land because ... there are virtually no services (in Seabeck).”

Despite the strong emotional ties to the school and the apparent desperation to save the property — CKSD’s community finance committee is expected to make a recommendation on whether to surplus the property in May — most at Thursday’s meeting were decidedly upbeat.

There was plenty of reason to be, too. A pair of big local agencies pledged their support to the group.

Chip Faver, director of Kitsap County Facilities, Parks and Recreation, spoke on behalf of absent Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown.

“From his perspective, he’s willing to support your decision to keep this property in the public domain with what help the county can give you,” Faver said.

Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan spoke up, as well.

“We’re gonna be here, we’re gonna be full partners in it and find a way to do that and still be within the state law,” he said.

His comment was in reference to the fact that there are a few restrictions the Port faces in terms of being able to help financially.

The Port should be able to invest in economic development, tourism and “to some extent, parks and recreation,” he said.

Dollars and cents will be the biggest hurdle for the group to clear in the next couple of months. There’s really no clear or reliable source of funding should the property become available for purchase.

“We’re not a good banking partner at this point,” Faver said of the county.

It’s still not certain that the property will be sold, either. CKSD Director of Operations David McVicker, also in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, outlined at least three options for the property.

“We’ve got to look at rent, lease (or) sell,” he said.

If the property was to be sold, it would have to be sold for at least 90 percent of its appraised value. That could be lowered to 70 percent if the property sat on the open market for a calendar year.

The community finance committee is studying options for the property — and for similarly “mothballed” Tracyton Elementary School — as they relate to the district’s ongoing budget shortfalls. The district currently dumps about $45,000 annually into each property. Selling the properties would relieve them of a $90,000 burden to the general budget, but any profits from the sale of the schools would go into the capital projects fund.

People can get more information on the Neighbors for Seabeck Community Center group by e-mailing sea.sounds@yahoo.com or jonloannaday@wavecable.com.

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