Setting a tone with the school and the town…

Insert favorite lawyer joke here…

It’s not the simplest of deals but it isn’t rocket science.
The big picture view is that you go to your neighbor and ask for a piece of his property on which to build a garage right behind your house. The property that works best for you has a gazebo with his hot tub. It sounds a little crazy but the neighbor is feeling pretty good and notices the piles of crap on the side of your house that will go into the garage. So he sees a benefit and agrees to give you the land for the garage if you build him a brand new gazebo where he can put his hot tub. The two of you dither over replacing a few trees here and there and you agree to plow his driveway and everyone calls it good.
And then the lawyers get involved… and the wondering begins if you will really get a new garage and the neighbor will get a new gazebo and you’ll stay friends and…

At the end of last summer, the RE1J school board approached the town of Crested Butte about obtaining some town-owned property on which to expand the school. The Town Council, despite feeling a little rushed, agreed to give the school district some of the property at the Tommy V baseball field just south of the current school if a proposed bond issue passed in the fall. It did.
In return, the council asked that the school district build another baseball field to replace Tommy V and make the expansion LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Green building is important to this council.
Despite misgivings over the necessity, expense and bureaucracy involved with a LEED certification, the school board has grudgingly agreed to go with the deal. They want the land and the town wants a green building with a plaque that says LEED. Check.

And then the lawyers got involved and… the wondering began.

The Town Council, school board, administrators on both sides of the issue and the school expansion architect all appear to understand the big picture. They have agreed to the deal in principle. But they can’t seem to complete the necessary Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). We are heading into 2009 and no IGA has been signed. It was originally going to be finalized before the election.

I have heard from people on both sides that the lawyers involved in drawing up the agreement are having a little difficulty ironing out the final details. Several drafts have been exchanged. Are they arguing over what the meaning of the word “is” is? I understand that that is sometimes necessary and the lawyers are paid to protect their respective boards. But the analogy that seems to have struck a chord is that it comes across like the lawyers are at times speaking different languages.

If that’s the case, it is time to bring in a translator.
The deal has been struck.
In a nutshell, voters went way out on a limb last November and overwhelmingly approved the big picture and agreed to raise their taxes to make the deal work. The district will get some land from the town to expand the school. The school will build a new baseball field for the town. The school district will construct most of its Crested Butte expansion to be LEED certified. The town barn will be moved, school traffic flow will be improved, and maintenance responsibilities are redefined.
Let’s not forget… the result of the deal is that the local kids get a better place to learn.

To be fair, the town’s attorney guarantees there will be an IGA signed. “There are no deal killers in there and the changes coming from both sides are really to be expected,” he said. “We’ll get there.”
The project architect has said that the longer it takes to strike a signed deal, the more costly the expansion project can become.
Really, it’s not the fault of the attorneys. They are paid to dicker and debate and get the best deal for the people paying them. But we, the taxpayers are paying both sides. Heck, the legal fees alone are probably approaching the same stratosphere as LEED certification expenses. Now, it’s up to the clients, (that would be the school board and the town) to make it clear they want an IGA signed and in place sooner rather than later.
It has become a matter of both time and money. But at the end of the day, it is also a reflection of confidence for us, the voters and taxpayers, that a reasonable tone will be set for a smooth project and ultimately, for a continued good and fruitful partnership between the school and the town.

—Mark Reaman

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