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Local Bidders vs. Missouri Speculators

Should the School Board sell to local bidders or a Missouri property flipper?

by Micki Nellis

Cleburne ISD opened bids on the JN Long Elementary School campus and the Santa Fe campus Monday, November 10. The criteria for awarding the bids includes both bid price and best use.

Bidding on JN Long were Cleburne Friends of the Cultural Arts for $2525, and Gold Nugget Properties in Missouri, a real estate company that specializes in flipping properties, for $6100.

Bidding on Santa Fe were East Cleburne Community Center for $101 and the same Gold Nugget Properties in Missouri for $6100.

Both local bids came from current occupants of each campus. East Cleburne Community Center has been at the Santa Fe campus for nine years. Cleburne Friends of the Cultural Arts has been at the JN Long campus just over a year.

Gold Nugget Properties has not inspected either building to our knowledge, unless they have an agent in Cleburne.

We searched Gold Nugget Properties on the internet and found that it is a real estate company that buys old school buildings all over the country with promises to lease them to charter schools or sell to investors to develop into nursing homes, apartments, etc. We did not find where these projects were actually completed, only the news releases with the promises to do so.

Here is the link to Gold Nugget promising more than a year ago to buy the property in Minnesota, then lease to a charter school. A search of the charter school group shows there is still no charter school at that property.

http://www.southernminn.com/janesville_argus/news/local/article_cf54710e-a61e-5247-a0f4-38ec8b2a4c66.html

Here is the link to the meeting where Gold Nugget Properties promised to sell to investors to develop into a nursing home or apartments in York, Nebraska. http://www.yorknewstimes.com/news/investor-wants-to-buy-former-middle-school/article_32e04a17-c57b-5dc1-91e8-7aeeb87da31c.html. We could find no links to show that that actually happened.

Both local bidders on JN Long and Santa Fe have deep roots in the community, are operated by volunteers who are passionate about their causes and have proven themselves able and eager to operate the buildings for community benefit.

East Cleburne Community Center offers homework help, mentoring, computer classes, a library, sports, college prep and many other activities for students. See http://eastcleburnecc.org/programs/

The volunteers at East Cleburne Community Center are boots on the ground for helping kids finish high school, learn a trade or go to college. They do it because they care deeply and are willing to give of themselves personally to form bonds and become mentors. They have been doing it successfully for many years and are a highly respected organization in Cleburne. As important as it is for people to write checks to support them, there is no substitute for day to day work done by real, caring people.

The JN Long Campus has been run by the Cleburne Friends of the Cultural Arts for just over a year. They turned an empty building into a vibrant cultural arts complex. CFCA serves 23 cultural arts groups with a combined membership of more than 400.

CFCA members have invested more than 10,000 hours of volunteer labor to convert JN Long from a school campus no longer suitable for classrooms into the unique JN Long Cultural Arts Complex that it is today.

The recent “People’s Choice” show had 72 artists/artisans enter from Cleburne and 19 other towns. Nearly 500 visitors came to JN Long to see the show and vote on their choice of winners during the three week run.

Public feedback has been overwhelmingly in favor of continuing CFCA operations at JN Long. The most common comments by visitors to JN Long go something like “This is really the perfect use of this wonderful old building,” or “You are making a valuable contribution to the quality of life in Cleburne by using this old building and saving it from being torn down,” or “Cleburne has needed an organization like this for a long time. It is an added bonus that you can preserve this old building at the same time.”

Gold Nugget Properties of Missouri has bid sight unseen, and is playing the law of averages, hoping to flip the property and make a profit. They care not what happens to Cleburne or its citizens, and are not invested in our future.

Santa Fe school cannot be developed economically into a viable commercial property. First of all, half of it is in a floodplain. When Dexter Baldwin of East Cleburne Community Center learned that ECCC had to buy the property or vacate at the end of December, he asked the City of Cleburne to inspect the building and list what needs to be repaired. The list was two pages long and included an engineering study. Tearing down the building instead of repairing it would cost around $1 million.

I cannot imagine Gold Nugget Properties spending any money on the building, or paying $1 million to tear it down. Instead, in my opinion, they will abandon the building, let it deteriorate, and not pay taxes on it. The City of Cleburne will then have to go through condemnation proceedings to condemn it, then tear it down at the city’s expense.

Selling the Santa Fe building to Gold Nugget Properties might reap $6,000 to CISD, but in the long run it will cost the city more than a million dollars.

It is now in the CISD Board’s hands to decide how to award the bids. They will consider the offers on Monday night, November 17 at the regular board meeting.

It is up to the school board to accept CFCA’s bid on JN Long at $2525 based on it being the best use, or ask CFCA to match the $6100 bid. (CFCA has the right of first refusal).

It is up to the school board to accept East Cleburne Community Center’s bid of $101 based on it’s being the best use of the property, or Gold Nugget’s $6100 and uproot the East Cleburne Community Center and gut their programs.