CUSD, Schmidbauer trade offers

After five years of discouraging news about the site where the Chico Unified School District hopes to build the community’s fourth high school, administrators are finally talking like they’re excited.

At an Oct. 16 meeting of the Bond Oversight Committee, Superintendent Scott Brown said the fact that the owner of the chosen property, George Schmidbauer of Eureka, has countered the district’s initial offer is a very good sign.

“The ball is currently in our court. It’s our turn to respond, and frankly we hope to do that in the next two weeks,” Brown said, referring to “offers and counteroffers and all that.”

All of the environmental hurdles with the federal government are clear (the CUSD lost some ground early on as the property owner insisted on seeking approval for a huge housing development at the same time), and the federal government is satisfied with the site. The state Department of Education, too, indicated its support of the property on the west side of Bruce Road near the Skyway.

“I have actually never been more optimistic about the possibilities,” said Trustee Rick Anderson. “[But] we’ve got a long way to go. The fact that we’re going back and forth is encouraging to me.”

The district had worried that Schmidbauer would refuse to deal, forcing the CUSD into the politically unpopular process of pursuing eminent domain and attempting to seize the property at fair market value for the community’s common good. It’s a fairly common process but one that doesn’t sit well with property rights advocates.

For the most part, the Board of Trustees and attorneys have been meeting in closed session about the potential land buy. Because of this, it’s not known how much the CUSD offered to pay for the parcel—its budget for land is $3 million—or if Schmidbauer’s counter was close or way out of the ballpark.

Once the site is acquired, architectural design work can begin in earnest, and that’s expected to take two years. Weather permitting, the school should be built by 2007—nearly a decade after voters allocated $40 million for a high school that would relieve overcrowding at Chico High and Pleasant Valley.

Also at the meeting, Brown announced that a replacement is being sought for bond committee member Mark Francis, whose new job has made him unavailable for meetings.