Community members ask county school board to consider transfer of property

Representatives of the Brothers-Hampton Rangeland Fire Protection Association came to Monday night’s school board meeting to present a preliminary plan to acquire the Brothers’ old schoolhouse from the district.

John Kopser, chair of the association’s board of directors, spoke on behalf of the group.

“We are looking to convert the schoolhouse into a community center,” said Kopser. “We would hope the district would donate the building but, if not, we would like to know your price.”

School Board Chair Patti Norris noted that a challenge for the board would be to understand who, or what organization, would be looking to take ownership of the property.

“Is there an organization that is stepping up to take responsibility?” she asked Kopser.

Kopser replied by saying that the fire protection association would be assuming ownership, as a nonprofit entity.

The fire association was formed in Brothers-Hampton in 2005, to protect ranch land that straddles Crook, Deschutes and Harney counties, enabling local ranchers to attack fires on their properties.

"We are simply an ad-hoc committee at the moment," said Kopser, explaining their interest in the property. "We are doing research and are hoping to keep the property as a part of the community."

The Brothers School District was formed in 1914 and served 20 students in its first academic year from 1914 through 1915. In 1917, the school came under joint ownership between Crook and Deschutes counties until 1921, when it was transferred to the sole jurisdiction of Deschutes County. The school has been closed for a number of years.

Kopser said that the fire association currently uses the building for its meetings and fundraisers.

"We have held auctions there and we sponsor an annual poker run," explained Kopser. "That's how we get by to maintain our fire equipment."

Residents of Brothers had hoped to reopen the building as a school, serving the dozen or so students that live in the area.

"These kids have to be bused to Prineville for school, and that is a long way for them to go," said Kopser. "That isn't going to happen, so we would like to acquire the building."

According to Crook County School District's Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan, the Brothers' School District merged with Crook County's in 2006, even though the school property is located in Deschutes County.

"Deschutes County assesses and collects the taxes on the property and forwards them to us," explained Logan. "It appears that this was done simply because the school is closer to Prineville."

For Kopser, and other Brothers' residents, the school is more than just a building; it is a place to maintain local community spirit.

"It's the only thing we have around here and we would like to acquire it for a meeting place," said Kopser. "It's the only place in Brothers to do that."

Logan said that it is too early to know what the board's decision might be.

"Our board needs to get more information about the implications of selling, or donating, the school," said Logan, adding that the district does maintain the building and pays utility and insurance costs for the building.

Board member Scott Cooper was quick to thank the group for coming.

"We have been looking for a solution for that building for at least five years," he said. "We appreciate you being here and your suggestion."

Kopser is hoping for a positive outcome.

"If we don't have that building, we don't have anything," he said. "We would have to build a building. It is already here, they don't know what to do with it, so we are offering to take it off their hands. We feel that building is a part of us."

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