- Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:58
- Published on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:58
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During its expansion library plans to use closed middle school
The King George School Board postponed approval of a proposed lease of the former middle school building to the Smoot Library Board until changes are made to the document to limit its liability for providing safe drinking water and tighten other clauses to improve the School Board’s position regarding potential costs.
The draft lease as reviewed at the June 13 meeting proposed the library pay the School Board the nominal fee of $10 per month in addition to $500 per month for all utilities, regardless of actual usage or billings. The term of the lease was proposed at one year, and then month-to-month until two months following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the main library, following expansion completion, unless otherwise terminated or extended.
FORMER MIDDLE SCHOOL
The School Board ceremoniously closed the former middle school building to students two years ago, in June 2009, when it realized its schools were no longer overcrowded, but instead had excess capacity following the opening of a new 1,700-pupil high school earlier in 2009, at a cost in excess of $42 million.
LIBRARY CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
The Smoot Library has been planning for several years to construct a 15,000-square-foot addition along with renovations to the existing 10,000-square-foot library building. The construction bid is expected to be advertised by the end of the month.
During the renovation/construction that is expected to last at least a year, the Smoot Library trustees must move the library collections out of the building and have a desire to continue serving the public during the construction timeframe.
At last week’s School Board meeting on June 13, Superintendent Candace Brown presented a lease for use of the former middle school by Smoot, saying they were interested in using the building.
DEVELOPMENT OF PROPOSED LEASE
Brown said she had been at some meetings with Library Director Robin Tenney and some of the trustees, adding that Lynn Pardee had also attended a “brainstorming session” regarding the library using the former school building.
Brown also said Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Britton had put the lease together for them. Britton also works for the county on a part-time basis as county attorney, but he was not acting in that capacity regarding the lease, as on the signature page it indicates that Britton had “approved as to form.”
Brown said, “This lease has been reviewed by the library director. I’ve looked at it. I know Ms. Pardee has looked at it. We’ve kind of gone back and forth and I think we’re pretty much at a point where we’re ready to lock this in. I know they are very interested in moving in and want to start packing up and know where their home is going to be while they are under construction.”
Brown said the library wanted the use of a portion of the building to include the former school library area, two nearby classrooms and a couple of small offices, though the areas are not indicated in the draft lease.
Pardee raised several issues at the meeting, asking for changes in numerous clauses in the following listed order.
CLAUSES #4 & #5: Clause #4 states: “The OKGMS shall be used by LIBRARY for public library purposes and those public functions traditionally and usually related to such public library services.”
Clause #5 states: “5. LIBRARY shall also have the right and authority for the term of the lease to use the OKGMS for various public functions and traditional and usual COUNTY purposes as it sees fit.” Pardee wanted to know what was meant by “county purposes.” Pardee said, “If they are going to use it as a library, then I don’t want them arranging things for other county entities to be using parts of it.”
Chairman Renee Parker said she understood that as some county board and committee meetings that are often held at the library. Dennis Paulsen sided with Pardee, saying the language needed to be more specific. He added, “It’s too open-ended as it’s written now.”
CLAUSE # 9: The King George County Department of Parks & Recreation and the NJROTC Rifle Team shall continue to use the gym and music room in the manner and at the times now set. During the term of the lease, School Board shall have access to all areas of OKGMS which are in use by LIBRARY. School Board activities at OKGMS must be conducted so as not to interfere with LIBRARY use.
Pardee said she wanted the last sentence deleted. She said, “Because if we need to get in there and do some work and it’s loud, then we need to get in there and do that. If kids shooting down the hall is considered loud because they want to do a program, and I realize it’s said up there earlier, but there are some things. I just think it needs to be deleted.”
Pardee added, “If something happens to one of the elementary schools and we have throw a first or second or third grade class in there to accommodate some other building, that’s going to be noisy. You’re going to have bells that would be ringing.”
Rick Randall responded, saying, “This section here struck me as a typical ‘quiet enjoyment’ phrase within a lease and perhaps it may be too broadly worded, but I’m not certain that it’s incorrect to have kind of ‘quiet enjoyment’ language in there to protect the library’s interest. The library may want some kind of guarantee in the lease, because in the end all you can rely on is the lease you’ve signed.”
Pardee told Randall, “Wait just a second. This is not a lease and they are not paying rent. So I don’t think we need to bend over backwards to accommodate them.” Parker suggested that Britton be requested to “see if there is a better way to put in some kind of clause that we may have in the emergencies that Ms. Pardee is asking about.”
CLAUSES #16 & 17: Clause #16 states “School Board will maintain and service HVAC system at its cost to the extent it is covered by the school’s maintenance agreement with Honeywell. In the event that School Board is unable to maintain the HVAC system, this lease shall automatically and immediately terminate at the discretion of Library.”
This clause was mentioned in passing by Pardee, but its inclusion might be significant as some have questioned whether the former school building is still covered in a division maintenance agreement with Honeywell.
Clause #17 states: “School Board shall maintain the well(s) to provide adequate water to OKGMS. In the event that School Board is unable to maintain the well(s) this lease shall automatically and immediately terminate at the discretion of library.”
Pardee’s issue with #17 sparked a lot of discussion. Pardee said, “What if it’s more than testing the water to make sure it’s safe for drinking? What if something else needs to be done? Then I just feel like the next paragraph contradicts it.”
She added, “What would make it unable to maintain? If it collapsed it? Yes. If it needed to be treated at a large expense? Then we could maintain. But we’re just choosing not to put our budget into a well.”
Randall took a different view. He said, “But if we can’t provide safe water for the purposes like you normally find in a library, which I believe includes drinking fountains and bathrooms in the current library, I can understand that they don’t want to be stuck in a facility where their patrons don’t come in contact with contaminated water.”
Pardee responded, “I want to know what makes it ‘unable.’ A $3,000 fix to the water? Or what? I’m sure we can come up with $3,000. But do we want to put $3,000 in a building that our children don’t use, when we can put $3,000 into something else?”
Paulsen had this to say, “Now if you remember, Mr. Randall, these are the two issues that we had asked for awhile back to be fixed because we knew they were going. So if these problems occur once they move in there, they can break the lease. We’ve already identified that we had problems with that well and we wanted to replace it years ago.”
Randall responded, “If we can’t maintain the well, then we are not providing them the type of facility that they are able to lease.”
Parker said, “I think the better question is ‘What is maintaining the well?’ I hate to get away from just using common sense here.” She added, “We need to know how far we’re able to go, if it doesn’t pass the test or it’s not up to code because of a certain month’s test?”
Following additional comments from Randall about the need make repairs as needed, Pardee told him, “But you’re missing the point here.” She added, “You shouldn’t be worried if the library is going to leave. That shouldn’t be your concern. You are almost sounding like you are concerned about them walking away from the lease.”
Randall responded, “I wouldn’t sign a lease if facilities that I lease under the understanding that they were serviceable turn out to be absolutely unserviceable.”
Randall appeared to be overruled, with a majority wanting the clause tightened to limit the School Board’s cost liability for providing a building with safe drinking water.
It is significant that on May 4, the Board of Supervisors followed the advice of the Planning Commission and agreed to earmark $150,000 of the School Board’s anticipated budget surplus to pay for costs to replace the well under discussion.
CLAUSE #22: “This lease shall be recorded among the land records of the King George County, Virginia Clerk’s Office.”
Pardee said, “Since we are both non-profit organizations, I don’t know if there is a cost for filing this at the clerk’s office, but I would add that I think it should be at the cost of the library.”
CLAUSE #7: Library shall own all improvements, buildings, equipment and fixtures placed on the OKGMS during the term of the lease. Library shall repair all damages to OKGMS, other than normal wear-and-tear.”
Pardee said, “I would add another one that the library would leave the school in the same condition or better than they found it.” She added, “I just want to make sure that the library is liable for paying for the cost or making the repair.”