Board is tasked with deciding the future of the property located in Deschutes County

Photo Credit: KEVIN SPERL - Members of the newly formed Brothers Community Center nonprofit organization stand in front of the school building they hope to transform into a community center. From left in front: John Kopser, Jessie Kopser, Dixie Hanna, Joanne Walker, Bill Walker, Kay Brown, Jerrie Hanna, Dan Brown and John Goodwin.

Residents of Brothers were back before the Crook County School Board July 21, asking for a second time for a decision regarding the disposition of the Brothers School building.

The Brothers-Hampton Rangeland Fire Protection Association had requested that the board, at its meeting in June, consider transferring ownership of the school to the nonprofit, for use as a community center.

The building property represents an unusual challenge to the Crook County district as it physically sits within Deschutes County but has, since 2006, been considered part of the Crook County Schools.

Board Chair Patti Norris said, at the June meeting, that it was her recollection that when the property was transferred, there were an insufficient number of students to continue operating it as a school.

"Did Bend-La Pine School District give us the building or did they transfer that area to be a part of our school district?” she asked the other members of the board, adding that she wasn’t sure who would be responsible for serving future students.

Since their initial proposal, Anna Logan, director of business and finance, began researching the property to determine the issues related to the building and its possible transfer.

At the July 21 board meeting, Logan reported that she had had discussions with the district’s attorney as well as a number of real estate appraisers.

Referring to Norris’ query, Logan said that the board might have to imagine that sometime in the future the population of that area could increase, resulting in future board members wondering why the building was disposed of.

“Our attorney recommends that the board exercise due diligence regarding the best cost benefit for the district,” said Logan. “The suggestion is that we proceed with a market appraisal to determine its value.”

Logan said that two different appraisers had offered their opinion that the property was not worth very much and could be on the market for years if the district chose to sell.

Nevertheless, she was of the opinion that an appraisal would provide the district an “insurance policy” with regards to their decision, whatever it might be.

John Kopser, chair of the rangeland association, offered the board a list of people and organizations that currently make use of the building.

He also delivered a bit of bad news.

“I want to let you know that we have determined that the current well for that property is going dry,” he said. “I have dug a few wells in the area and it will have to be dug much deeper in order for it to function properly.”

Recognizing that issues may take longer to resolve than anticipated, board member Scott Cooper suggested that the district consider leasing the property to the nonprofit at $1 per year.

“I am open to anything that relieves us of $25,000 per year in maintenance costs plus the cost of a new well,” he said.

Jeri Hanna, owner of the Brothers Stage Stop, said that leasing the building, even for $1 a year, is probably not an option.

“As a business, I pay $600 per year in taxes for that dead horse,” she said, referring to the school building. “We would much rather buy it or have it donated to us.”

Newly elected school board chair Doug Smith remarked that the district needed to be able to recognize a valid, legal nonprofit in order to continue the discussion, adding that a formal proposal for acquiring the building was needed as well.

Kopser replied by telling him that the group has formed a separate nonprofit, Brothers Community Center, regarding the school building and have applied for a federal tax identification number.

Kopser agreed with Hanna that acquiring the property is the best option, most likely for both parties.

“If they give it to us, they won’t have to maintain it anymore, and we won’t have to pay taxes on it either,” he said. “Then, they can then spend their $25,000 elsewhere on the schools.”

The group plans on presenting a formal proposal at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 18.

Contract Publishing

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