River Ridge District looks to sell Bloomington school site

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By Ted Pennekamp


The River Ridge School District is looking to sell the former Bloomington school building and grounds. The district has posted a request for bids on its website and also in the Courier Press and Grant County Herald Independent. 

The Bloomington site is 16 acres and bids must be received by 4 p.m. on April 6. The building will be sold with all existing fixtures.

“Over the past several months, several people have expressed an interest in the property,” said District Administrator Dr. Jeff Athey. “We’re hoping we’ll get some bids.”

Athey said the district would like to get a “decent amount of money” for the property, in part because the building received $500,000 of electrical and ventilation work in recent years. 

Athey also noted that the district would like the buyer to be compatible with the district’s character. Also, the district won’t sell to a charter school or some other entity that would be competing with the River Ridge School District. He said the school board will be able to reject any or all bids if they are not in the best interests of the district. 

In addition to selling the Bloomington site, the district would like to lease the track and football field from the new owners as well as have access to restrooms, the concession stand, the press box, locker rooms and parking during athletic events. The district may have to lease the athletic facilities for up to five years, said Athey, because the Patch Grove site doesn’t have a track or football field yet.

 “This spring, we will be running track meets in Bloomington,” said Athey, who noted that the school board is also exploring what it would cost to have a football field and track at the Patch Grove site.

The referendum in the fall of 2016 passed in order to consolidate the district at Patch Grove, but a separate question regarding $1.5 million to add a track and football field failed.

Athey said the district has been working with FEH Design of Dubuque and Kraemer Brothers Construction of Plain, to explore options for adding a track and football field to the Patch Grove site. He said most of the people at a recent school board meeting liked one option in which the track and football field would go where the baseball field is now. The baseball field would then be moved to the west of the softball field. Under this option, the crop field used by the River Ridge agricultural program would go from its current 15 acres down to about nine acres.

Athey said that FEH Design and Kraemer Brothers, the two companies that designed and built the new addition at Patch Grove, are in the process of preparing a list of questions that the school board and district will need to answer regarding a new track and football field.

One question will be, how nice of a facility does the district want? 

“Do we want all of the bells and whistles? Or, do we want something basic? Or, do we want something in between?” asked Athey, who noted that the track could be blacktop, like the one in Bloomington, or it could have a state-of-the-art surface, for example.

Once the list of questions is answered, FEH and Kraemer Brothers would then have a better understanding of how much a new track, football field, bleachers, press box and restroom building would cost.

Also, would the district have enough money to pay for such a project all at once, or would it be better to do it in phases? 

Athey said that another aspect is that the district has $160,000 from the building referendum for lights for the baseball field. He said the $160,000 needs to be used before February of 2020 or the district will not be able to use those funds. Also, it needs to be known where the baseball field will be so that the lights are installed in the correct location.

If a track and football field and the accompanying facilities are to be built at Patch Grove, Athey said it would eliminate the need and the cost to bus students to the Bloomington site for track practice and meets. It would also eliminate the need to lease those facilities from the buyer of the Bloomington site as well as the cost to maintain the leased areas. The district would also be using facilities such as locker rooms that are already at the Patch Grove site. In addition, the physical education department would be able to use the track when needed.

Athey said there is no timeline that has been established for the proposed track and football field addition.

“We will see how it all shakes out in the coming months,” Athey said about the bids for the Bloomington site and the possible track and football field addition at Patch Grove.

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