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Madras, 509-J to swap land


   After more than a year's worth of planning and debate, School District 509-J and the city of Madras are moving forward with a land swap.
   In the trade, the school district will acquire 20 acres in the new 890-acre Yarrow project, located just south of Juniper Hills Park, for a future school, and the city will receive 4.96 acres on the north side of the Westside Elementary property, for a new city hall.
   By a vote of 3-1, the School District 509-J Board of Directors approved the trade back in July. "They just wanted to make sure they were doing due diligence," said Superintendent Guy Fisher.
   The school district hired Craig Zell of Zell and Associates Appraisers to determine the market value of the two properties. The district's 4.96 acres of property was valued at $2.27 million, while the city's 20 acres came in at $2.2 million.
   "They wanted to be good stewards of the public's funds to make sure that it was an equitable trade," said Fisher, noting that the property will be held in reserve for future educational needs.
   When the trade is complete, the city will acquire acreage zoned for public facilities and open space, where it plans to locate a new town plaza.
   "It's a great spot for a police station/city hall," said City Administrator Mike Morgan, noting that it's the only property in the downtown core area zoned for public facilities. "It's not taking commercial land and making it public, it's keeping public land public."
   After the deeds are recorded, the city will go through a partition process, to separate the parcel from the rest of the Westside Elementary property. As early as December, Morgan hopes to seek City Council permission to look for an architect.
   The city has set aside about $100,000 for the initial architectural design work. Morgan expects that by springtime, there will be a conceptual design and an assessment of the likely cost.
   "We will go out and look for a combination of grants and loans," he said. "The balance will be paid off entirely by the land sales from the east side."
   Morgan estimates that the city will eventually receive about $7.5 million from the sale of nearly 500 acres to the Madras Land Development Company, but only a portion of that will be used for the City Hall.
   "In the end, people will have an enduring location for City Hall and a town plaza -- and it will be debt-free."