Colorado Mountain College

Colorado Mountain College's Chaffee County Academic Center on CR 319.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following timeline was constructed from information provided by Colorado Mountain College and the Buena Vista school district in the last week in addition to other sources (noted). The reader should also note that real estate transactions/discussions in executive session are exempt from Sunshine–Open Records laws.

Spring 2018 – Buena Vista school district superintendent Lisa Yates requests Colorado Mountain College space to use for expansion of its wait-listed preschool program.

The CMC board agrees, retrofits three classrooms and allows BVSD to use the requested space for 2018-2019 school year at no cost (CMC).

Sept. 4, 2018 – Preschool students begin classes in a wing of the CMC campus.

“The college and school district signed a one-year memorandum of understanding for the Early School’s additional site, which will be evaluated at the end of the school year. The school district built a small playground at the college campus with the help of Habitat for Humanity, and CMC is holding a science class at Buena Vista High School and another at McGinnis Middle School so students can access those schools’ science labs, something CMC Chaffee County doesn’t have,” said a press release issued by CMC staff and published in The Times in November. (CMC)

Nov. 1, 2018 – CMC receives letter from Yates and board president Suzette Hachmann requesting formal negotiations for acquisition of the campus. CMC prepares a recommendation for the CMC board of trustees to be presented at its meeting in January 2019.

“While there have been many successes for both organizations, there have also been challenges with the shared space,” wrote Yates. “As a school district, to have our program on two separate campuses has been difficult for our staff.”

Yates also said the building lacks the plumbing appropriate for the heath and safety of young students and that the annual agreements inhibited the district’s ability to plan long-term. (BVSD)

Dec. 17, 2018 – The Buena Vista school board agrees to send a note indicating its interest in pursuing a feasibility study with CMC that may result in Buena Vista being annexed into the taxation district.

If the community has bought into CMC by being a full-fledged member of its taxation district, “the board will probably consider some type of conveyance,” the vice-president of CMC’s Leadville campus, Rachel Pokrandt said at the BVSD board meeting. “If BV doesn’t want to come into the district, it just might look different. We might be looking at more of a buyout of the current note we have left on the building.”

Pokrandt told the board in December that the buyout would be $280,000. (CCT).

Jan. 30, 2019 – The CMC board of trustees votes unanimously to accept BVSD’s resolution, “the first of several required steps (including a feasibility study and approval of ballot questions by district voters) that must be completed in order to complete the annexation.” (CMC minutes)

Feb. 6 – CMC CEO Matt Gianneschi sends a letter to superintendent Yates at the direction of the CMC board informing her that the board had approved her requests for an feasibility study on annexing into the CMC taxation district, as well as the district’s request for use of the CMC building.

“Though the college has made noteworthy investments in developing and maintaining that site, the CMC board of trustees believes that the expansion of early childhood education to the residents of Buena Vista is perhaps the highest and best use of that site,” Gianneschi wrote.

The letter offers introductory terms for a long-term lease with the option to purchase. The college would provide full use of the facility to BVSD at no charge, but BVSD would be asked to pay for comprehensive insurance, utilities, general maintenance “and the like.”

“It is the CMC trustees preference that this purchase option not be exercised until January 2020 at the earliest, as the trustees would first like to know the outcome of the election or elections that may occur in November 2019,” Gianneschi wrote. “Whether Buena Vista is in the CMC tax district or not will impact the way the college perceives the opportunity to partner with BVSD.”

Gianneschi also requested that BVSD “agree to not dispose of the 2-acre vacant parcel it owns in downtown Buena Vista as well as provide CMC with first right of refusal to obtain ownership of that site.”

CMC, by state statute, must consider all proposals for acquisition of real property three times. The board’s January approval was the first time, the second is set for Mar. 20. (CMC)

Late winter, 2019 – CMC sends draft of a 3-year lease of the CMC building to BVSD. The lease would begin June 1 and would ask for a nominal $1 per year in rent. The draft agreement lays out that utility and maintenance requirements for the building would be the responsibility of the district, as would insurance costs.

During this process, BVSD makes a formal offer to purchase the campus. CMC makes a confidential counteroffer. (CMC)

Mar. 20 – CMC board of trustees votes unanimously to approve the Buena Vista lease on its second reading. During the same meeting the board voted to accept the feasibility study which found that the Salida School District would be acceptable for annexation. (CMC minutes)

May 13 – BVSD discusses CMC lease during executive session, off the public record as allowable by Colorado Sunshine laws (BVSD).

May 22 – CMC board votes unanimously to accept the BVSD lease on its third reading. (CMC minutes)

Late May, 2019 – In anticipation of BVSD’s acquisition of the building and to allow the school district to remodel for early childhood classes, CMC vacates the BV campus. Salida School District offers CMC an office in its administration building. (CMC)

Yates said later that she went with BVSD staff to the CMC building in late May and was surprised to find it empty. (CCT)

June 10 – BVSD board discusses CMC lease during executive session. (BVSD)

June 11 – CMC receives a letter from Yates saying that BVSD was withdrawing from negotiations to purchase the building, as well as declining to sign the 1-year lease to use the building for preschool space.

“Given the significant differential in our offers, we believe this is in the best interest of our district and community,” Yates wrote. “The district is disappointed the community’s historical investment through monetary and land donations to establish the CMC facility in Chaffee County is not accounted for in your counteroffer.”

Yates further took issue with a term she said CMC included in its counteroffer that “both land and cash would be needed should our community ever decide to annex.”

“It is our understanding a community as a whole, if considering annexation, would work together to determine the location of CMC in their community and the tax approval by the community would provide the needed resources to advance services from CMC in their community.

“The counter offer indicates providing land would be the responsibility of the buyer and that the district land identified in the counter would be suitable for CMC. If the district’s property has been vetted by our community as a desired location for CMC should we be annexed, we have not been part of those discussions.

“Negotiation of the district’s acquisition of the Chaffee County campus should not be dependent on annexation; the district alone is not responsible for providing land and cash for later annexation. For these reasons, we will not be pursuing a purchase of the campus.”

Yates also said that, with the end-goal of purchasing the building off the table, it would not make sense for the school to relocate for a single year into the CMC building.

“Unfortunately, the new proposed costs required by CMC to lease and purchase the property far exceeds initial projections and so have made this unattainable and undesirable long-term solution,” she said. (BVSD)

Aug. 13 – Salida School District board passes resolution to enter CMC taxation district.

Aug. 28 – CMC board of trustees passes a resolution to accept the Salida School District into the CMC taxation district. (CMC)

Nov. 5, 2019 – Election Day. Voters in the Salida School District will see a ballot question on entering the taxation district. If the measure passes, Salida will become the first new district to enter CMC’s taxation district since 1982.

2021 – Because CMC rules only allow districts to vote to enter the taxation district in odd years, 2021 will be the earliest that BVSD will be able to put the question of whether Buena Vista should become a full member of CMC’s district, provided both BVSD and CMC’s governing boards approve annexation.

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