Land exchange proposal defeatedA proposal to move forward on a possible land exchange that could have given the Jamestown Public School District a higher taxable valuation failed in a 4-4 vote Tuesday night at a special School Board meeting.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A proposal to move forward on a possible land exchange that could have given the Jamestown Public School District a higher taxable valuation failed in a 4-4 vote Tuesday night at a special School Board meeting.
The Jamestown/Stutsman County Development Corp. came to the board at the last meeting and presented the idea. Connie Ova, JSDC CEO, said the JSDC has 100 acres of land in the Spiritwood Energy Park that is in the Barnes County North School District. The land when developed in the future from farmland to industrial land would have a higher taxable valuation.
The motion was to start contacting landowners and lawyers to go about the proper channel of exchanging land so the Jamestown district would extend to the land owned by JSDC.
“What we would have to do is create a land bridge somehow,” said Bob Toso, Jamestown superintendent.
Opinions varied from each School Board member.
“We leave our jobs at the door when we come in here and work for the Jamestown School District,” said Gail Martin, board member.
Discussion moved on to what and who exactly funds the JSDC and the money going into the development of the 100 acres in question.
Ova said the JSDC is funded by a 1/2 percent sales tax in Jamestown as well as a 4 mill levy on property tax in Stutsman County. She broke the funding down to 80 percent from the sales tax and 20 percent from the levy.
“We’re using Jamestown funds to develop that property with the benefits going to Barnes County North instead of Stutsman County,” said Greg Allen, School Board president.
Lori Carlson, BCN board president and Stutsman County resident, disagreed.
“To say we don’t pay the 1/2 cent sales bill is absolutely outrageous,” Carlson said.
She said BCN is not just in Barnes County but also Spiritwood, Spiritwood Lake and Wimbledon.
“This feels like an absolute land grab,” Carlson said, “like a hostile takeover.”
She also brought up the point that a landowner with property adjacent to the 100 acres in question was contacted by the JSDC before the motion was brought to the attention of the School Board about the possibility of annexing property into the Jamestown Public School District.
Ova said that was this past summer and, after the landowner said he wasn’t interested, he wasn’t contacted again by Ova or anybody in the JSDC to Ova’s knowledge.
“One of our parents was contacted and as soon as that happens there’s a real legitimate concern that something is in the wind here,” said BCN Superintendent Doug Jacobson.
Allen assured Jacobson that the topic was brought up at an open meeting and the Jamestown Public School Board did not contact any landowners.
“JSDC initiated this and we would be foolish as a board to not look at it,” Martin said.
Roy Musland, board member, voiced his disagreement with trying to move forward and contact landowners.
“If we benefit at someone else’s unwilling expense, in what world is that right?” Musland said.
Allen said the land is currently undeveloped and the funds that would possibly come would come in the future.
The vote failed with Shelly Jystad, Heidi Larson, Martin and Allen voted in favor of starting the process to contact landowners and Gary Peterson, Tanya Ostlie, Scott Walch and Musland voted against it. Board member Rosemary McDougall was absent.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org