Champaign school Board OKs deal to buy park district land for drainage

Champaign school Board OKs deal to buy park district land for drainage

CHAMPAIGN — A divided Unit 4 school board signed off on an intergovernmental agreement with the Champaign Park District on Monday, checking off another item from its referendum to-do list.

The board's approval is the first step for the school district to acquire the about 1 acre of park-district-owned land it needs to build a stormwater basin north of the Centennial High School parking lot. If the park district board signs off on the deal Wednesday, Unit 4 could close on the property by Sept. 28.

Unit 4 needs to build the drainage basin, officials say, to deal with stormwater run-off from the Centennial campus once it's expanded and from Tommy Stewart Field, which was recently covered with artificial turf.

Park district Executive Director Joe DeLuce said a purchase agreement was one way to make the process "as simple as possible." He declined to divulge the price.

"The simplest thing was to sell the property, from our view," he said. "It made the most sense. Just the fact that you take it, you do what you want with it."

Talks between the public bodies have extended for months, as other options were debated. At a school board meeting earlier this month, there was talk of both sides exchanging an acre of land, so Unit 4 wouldn't have to shell out more money for another acquisition.

Board member Kathy Richards asked Monday what happened to that idea.

"My understanding is that (the park district was) not interested in a land swap," said Elizabeth Stegmaier, Unit 4's director of capital projects and planning.

Board members Amy Armstrong, Gianinia Baker and Heather Vasquez voted against the intergovernmental agreement.

In other moves:

— The school board voted — this time unanimously — to approve buying the property at 206 N. New St. for $118,000.

"This is another property that borders the Central High School site, and with the facilitation of the expansion of the Central High School campus ... the acquisition of this property is critical to the overall traffic flow and the entirety of the traffic plan around campus during the school day," Tom Lockman, the district's chief financial and legal officer, told the board.

— A construction contract for the demolition of the former Dr. Howard Elementary School received unanimous board approval.

Capital projects manager Sandra Roesler told board members that the work is expected to begin sometime in mid-September, pending the completion of hazardous-material abatement from both the school (expected to finish this week) and three homes (at 105 N. James St. and 1201 and 1203 W. Park Ave.) across the street to the west.