On June 5, 2012, by letter of intent, the Alamosa Board of Education (Alamosa School Board) began formal negotiations to sell the Polston School property to The Trust for Public Land for the purpose of developing a healthy living park.
By April 15, 2013, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) had presented a revised formal offer to the Alamosa School Board to purchase the Polston property for the full-appraised value of $755,000. After nearly three years of planning with TPL and many local groups, the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition was ready to develop and manage the property as The Rio Grande Healthy Living Park.
Then, on July 1, 2013, the Alamosa School Board quickly and quietly sold the Polston property to a private developer for only $500,000.
This discounted sale of public property appraised at $755,000 shortchanged our schools and students and generated a lot of discussion on these editorial pages and elsewhere. In some discussions, myths have replaced the facts about the Polston property sale and The Healthy Living Park.
Myth #1: The Polston property sale was legal.
Fact: The Alamosa School Board violated multiple state laws that are in place to protect taxpayer money from misuse and to keep local government from making important decisions in private, away from the public eye.
Myth #2: Money for The Rio Grande Healthy Living Park would come from tax dollars.
Fact: TPL is a private corporation that, since 1981, has helped fund dozens of public parks projects in Colorado. Individuals, private foundations and trusts, not tax dollars, would contribute to TPL for purchase of the Polson property.
Myth #3: The Healthy Living Park will not help the local economy as much a private development.
Fact: The extra $255,000 from the Polston property sale would do a lot right now to support our local economy, and at no cost to the taxpayer. Check out www.riograndehealthypark.blogspot.com for an overview of The Healthy Living Park including future opportunities for tourists, youth education and private economic development. Public parks can support local economies and taxpayers in a big way, see www.tpl.org/research/parks/economic-health-benefits.html.
The Alamosa School Board violated the law and failed in their fiscal duty to the Alamosa schools and the local taxpayers. Only one school board member, Neil Hammer, voted against the discounted Polston property sale. I urge people in the Alamosa School District to get the facts and ignore the myths when deciding how to best use public property and when voting for school board candidates this fall.
For the complete article see the 10-10-2013 issue.
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