In a not-so-unexpected move, the City Council has decided to submit a bid for the old Columbus School building at 2530 S. 500 East.
What is unexpected is city officials' stance that the move does not necessarily guarantee the old school, recently declared surplus property by the Salt Lake School District, will house a new South Salt Lake City Hall.In June, Mayor Randy Fitts called Columbus the city's best bet for a new government center, because South Salt Lake has leased its current, cramped quarters on Morris Avenue for the past 41/2 years. In his election campaign nearly two years ago, Fitts promised to once again secure a City Hall owned by the city. He has been negotiating a possible purchase of the property with the school district since the end of last year.
In a special session of the City Council called Wednesday by Fitts, the council discussed taking "action on the possible acquisition of (the) property" in a half-hour executive session. Councilman Doug Moffat moved that the city issue a minimum bid of $800,000. The vote was unanimous, excepting absences by Wes Losser, Dave Brusch and Judy Siebach.
Deadline for sealed bids is Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 2 p.m. The district has mandated a "minimum acceptable bid . . . in excess of $$800,000."
But South Salt Lake community and economic development director Jonnalyne Walker has raised questions about the validity of the district's asking price. Twenty years ago Columbus was an elementary school. The school district has used it for various purposes since then. In June, the district indicated that the building's 43,000 square feet - or four acres - would sell for or around $750,000.
Walker said as of Wednesday, the city was one of four potential bidders on the property, joining a real estate firm, a developer and the Jewish Community Center. A decision will be rendered by the board in the next two months, Moffat said.
"This is not necessarily a City Hall move. It's an attempt to preserve open space and create more recreational opportunities in the city," Walker said.
Moffat added that the City Hall issue is "a whole separate issue," especially because a two-month-old citizens' survey shows residents prefer a more centrally located City Hall. One located someplace like the old Prudential Federal building, 3300 South State.
"There are a lot of issues to look at before we make a hard and fast decision," Moffat said. "We're not completely ruling out a City Hall at that location. We just don't want that piece of property to slip away."
The city's lease expires on the Morris Avenue building at the end of the year, he said. The owners, The Boyer Co., has given South Salt Lake the option of buying the four-floor building at the market value it possessed four years ago.