CMC, R-31 dispute: Where it now stands

Over the past two weeks, Colorado Mountain College and Buena Vista School District R-31 officials have exchanged public statements in a dispute over the possible lease and purchase of the CMC building south of Buena Vista near the airport.

CMC leased the building to the district for the 2018-19 school year for use as a preschool at no charge to the district, with CMC helping the district retrofit three classrooms for preschoolers. Terms of the lease stated the district would be responsible for insurance, maintenance and utilities and other operating costs.

From here, CMC and school district officials have made statements and counter-statements about who initiated the lease-purchase discussion, operating expenses and sale cost, among others.

In late spring, in anticipation of the district taking over use of the building, CMC moved out of the building, taking with it classroom equipment. The college was reportedly favoring a downtown BV location.

In June, however, school district officials notified CMC that it was ending negotiations, citing the appraised cost the college was asking for the building while noting that community contributions helped make the BV campus possible.

The history of CMC’s BV campus dates to the early 2000s when Ron Southard and Carol Perrin donated 36 acres, land valued at that time at $250,000, near the BV airport to the college for use as a Chaffee County campus.

The 8,000-square-foot, $1.3 million building  opened in November 2005.

According to news reports at the time, a key element in establishing a permanent CMC structure in the county included a $480,000 federal economic development grant to extend a sewer line to the property.

Other keys included $200,000 in grants from the Boettcher and El Pomar foundations; $320,000 in in-kind services from the town, county and a private entity; $400,000 from the CMC foundation to be repaid over time; and $606,000 in contributions from individuals, businesses and organizations.

Earlier this year BV school district officials made an offer to CMC to purchase the building. They apparently were taken aback when CMC countered with a cost based on the building’s appraised value, leading to the district ending negotiations.

Neither the district nor CMC has revealed terms of the initial offer or the college’s counter.

A critical provision in the agreements creating CMC’s Chaffee County center stipulated that should the property be sold, proceeds of the sale must benefit the county educationally, culturally or recreationally, and that any profit from a sale must be earmarked for use in the county. CMC officials have acknowledged this provision.

The CMC building is now vacant. College officials have said they have received formal and informal offers for the property but have no plans at this time to re-establish classes at the BV center.

CMC continues to conduct classes in both Buena Vista and Salida, including dual-enrollment courses for college credit for students of both high schools.

In November, voters in Salida School District R-32-J will vote on whether or not to join the CMC tax district. At the same time voters in the existing CMC district vote on accepting R-32-J into the college system.

Check out CO Grand

Tens of millions of dollars in historic autos will be on display around Thonhoff Park over the noon hour today as Colorado Grand makes a return visit to Salida. It’s a great opportunity to see classic, vintage vehicles and talk to owners and drivers about their history.

— MJB