The Saratoga Sun -

School district left with a 'lot' of questions

CCSD2 Board of Trustees discuss what to do with property in Medicine Bow after current lessee declines annual renewal

 

April 22, 2020



by Joshua Wood

The Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD2) Board of Trustees is facing a dilemma of land ownership after receiving information that the current lessee of property in Medicine Bow is not interested in renewing their lease for another year. Currently, property owned by the district surrounding the old Medicine Bow High School is leased to MedBow Lodging, LLC. There are approximately 10 contractors staying on the property at the moment.

As was previously reported, (see “Viridis Eolia asks about land lease” on page 16 of the March 4 Saratoga Sun), the wind energy company Viridis Eolia (Viridis) had expressed interest in the property surrounding the old Medicine Bow High School. Viridis had purchased the old Medicine Bow High School from the Town of Medicine Bow three years ago and, over a year ago, had expressed interest in purchasing the surrounding property.

Dean Byrne, who represents Viridis, had expressed the company’s interest in the property in February 2019 via phone and appeared in person this past February to re-express interest. According to Byrne, at the most recent February meeting, the wind energy company had interest in developing the old Medicine Bow High School and the 19 acres of land surrounding it. When asked by CCSD2 Board Member Mike Boardman what plans Viridis had for Medicine Bow, Byrne replied that he could not disclose those plans publicly.

“Mr. Byrne, who represents Viridis … has approached the board, probably a couple years ago initially, and then we didn’t hear from him (for) a while and then they ended up buying the old school building from the Town of Medicine Bow. His client is the one that’s interested in a purchase,” said CCSD2 Superintendent Jim Copeland. “He’s reached out again a couple of times recently. So, basically, I’m just looking for a little guidance. Do we want to do something about the land? Do we want to sell it? He’s also indicated they would be interested in a short term lease with an option to purchase.”

Chairman James Sewell advised the board, most of whom joined via videoconference, that no actions would need to be taken on the matter at that meeting. Rather, Sewell had put the item on the agenda to get discussion going on how the board would want to proceed. 

“The board could take action to move forward with Mr. MacPherson writing a lease with some conditions, we could say we’re just not ready to take any action at this time or we could say we’re not interested in selling the land,” Copeland said. “There are some past issues that have come up.”

One of those issues, expressed by both Boardman and CCSD2 Vice Chair Kaycee Alameda, was the fact that Viridis had not paid taxes on the property they already owned in Medicine Bow. Indeed, according to data from the Carbon County Assessor’s Office, the wind energy company has not paid their 2019 property taxes in the total amount of $37,401.73. According to the data available on carbonwy.com, the first half of the taxes, $18,700.87, was due on November 10 and the second half, $18,700.86, is due on May 10.

“The fact that they haven’t paid their taxes is just one issue. There’s several issues that I have. Back taxes is kind of a big one but also not a huge fan of selling it. Leasing it could be an option if they could move past the tax point or get that squared away,” said Boardman. “The fact that they’re not willing to share their plan with us and they’re keeping that kind of hidden is kind of one reason a year or two ago they didn’t succeed in getting their plans in Medicine Bow implemented to begin with.”

Alameda echoed Boardman’s concerns on the back taxes. Another concern raised by Alameda was that of Viridis using the property purchase to make headway with the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council.

“They need to purchase some land or this building to get a production tax credit on their project. This is just a move so they can show the Industrial Siting Council that they are trying to do something. The huge problem with that is they’re a year late on their taxes,” said Alameda. “I don’t know what they’ve done with the Medicine Bow School but I would suspect that that was just another attempt to appear that they’ve spent the money on this project and they haven’t gotten it in the air.”

As discussion continued, it became evident that many of the board members were hesitant about selling the property to Viridis. Most had concerns about the back taxes owed on the property in Medicine Bow but were also concerned about the company’s unwillingness to share their plans with the board. Among those members was Charlie George, who works for the Town of Medicine Bow and has also maintained the property leased by MedBow Lodging.

“The only issue I have with any of this right now is that there’s 10 RV’s in there now, expected to be 15, they (MedBow Lodging) just let me know about this,” said George.

Copeland replied that he wasn’t proposing the school district kick the current tenants off the leased property. He added that when the lease, which is currently written as a one year lease, expired with nobody to take it over, that would leave the school district in the position of being landlords. A number of ideas were thrown out including gauging interest on the part of MedBow Lodging in a short-term lease through the summer or interest on the part of a local lessor, such as Vernon Scott, in taking over the lease through the summer.

The general consensus among the board was that nobody was interested in selling the property and that nobody was interested in working with Viridis.

“I am not in favor of letting them get any deeper than they are right now in Medicine Bow,” George said.

Sewell asked for a motion to allow Copeland to work with either MedBow Lodging or a local resident to develop a temporary lease for the property in Medicine Bow. The motion was made and passed unanimously.

The next meeting of the Carbon County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees will be on May 18 at 4 p.m. at Elk Mountain Elementary School in Elk Mountain.

 

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