Next week’s Hawk Zone vote is still on and the purchase price is still the same despite a preliminary city assessment that showed the building is worth $100,000 less than the Milton School District originally thought.
The Milton School Board held a special meeting Wednesday to reconsider holding that special electorate meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday. But the board ultimately decided not to change anything.
District voters will decide Monday whether to buy the Hawk Zone from its current owner, Backyard Properties. Milton has rented the former bowling alley for the past year and would like to purchase the building.
In accordance with state statutes, the decision rests in residents’ hands because it would acquire new property. Milton went through a similar process in 2011 when it bought the current district office building.
Milton officials have touted the Hawk Zone as an asset for school-affiliated sports teams and youth recreation. They have said it provides extra athletics space to free up a practice logjam elsewhere.
Wednesday’s special meeting to reconsider the vote was unexpected given the district’s past satisfaction with the facility.
On Feb. 26, the board voted 6-1 to hold the vote to potentially buy the Hawk Zone, with Brian Kvapil opposed. The board also agreed that, if the purchase was approved, the sale would cost $485,000 plus an additional $15,000 for electrical upgrades.
A week later, the school district received an uncertified 2018 assessment from the city. The building is now valued at $398,000, down from last year’s valuation of $498,000, District Administrator Tim Schigur said.
Upon receiving that revision, Milton approached Backyard Properties and asked to lower the purchase price. The current owners would not budge, Schigur said.
He wasn’t sure what caused such a significant drop in estimated value. The assessor did not have access inside the building and had to judge based on its drab exterior and most recent sale price of $350,000, Schigur said.
He and the board decided to hold Wednesday’s meeting to make the assessment info public and discuss leaving the sale agreement, he said.
But the board mostly stuck to its previous positions and decided 5-2 to keep the special electorate meeting scheduled as is. Only Tom Westrick flipped, saying the money would be better spent on a new facility.
Kvapil had a similar view. The money should go toward more critical needs or the district could consider putting those funds toward a new building, he said.
Westrick said he made his decision last week based on the most accurate info then available. Despite his changed stance Wednesday, he said he would support the board's choice to still hold the vote.
Shelly Crull-Hanke, Bob Cullen, Karen Hall and Betsy Lubke said they still wanted to let the electorate decide despite the reduced assessment. This was a creative option designed as a stopgap for current facility needs, they said.
Don Vruwink said the space could be rented out to other groups. A Fort Atkinson-based sports organization has expressed interest, he said.
Cullen believes the property’s proximity to the high school adds value for the district. As far as the cost, the district wouldn’t have modified the agreement had the assessment come in higher than expected.
“The price is the price,” he said.
Kvapil wanted to know why the district was rushing to finish this transaction. Schigur said the district’s lease ends March 31, and other buyers are interested.
Schigur did not believe the new assessment would affect Monday’s outcome. Most people have already decided how they will vote, he said.
Monday’s special electorate meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Similar to the district’s annual meeting, residents must be in attendance if they want to vote.
The vote will not take long because the regular board meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m.
CORRECTION (7:15 p.m. March 8): This story has been updated to clarify Tom Westrick's comments. Despite voting to rescind the Hawk Zone ballot, he said he would support the board's decision to still hold the vote.