ACHTUNG: The following is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.
Did I miss or badly overlook something, or did the Leighton Township Board Thursday night poop the bed by spending $650,000 to buy the old Moline Elementary building and surrounding property?
If I understand this development correctly, the Township Board voted 4 to 0 to pay more than 10 times what the current owner paid about six years ago. This doesn’t make sense for four members of the Republican Party, which has consistently maintained over many years it doesn’t spend the public’s money foolishly.
Supervisor Steve Wolbrink, Clerk Rachel Fennema and Trustees John Hooker and Brian Bonnema (Treasurer Jaci Bultsma was absent) agreed to use $650,000 from the federal America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to buy a dilapidated old elementary school building and almost five acres in order to open it all up to local recreational pursuits.
Indeed, the old school and property is adjacent to the Moline Softball Association fields and there is a lot of talk about creating pickle ball courts.
But it should be noted that six years ago owner Steve Austin bought the old school building and property for just $45,600, and he received a little help from the Township Board in getting the proper zoning.
Austin told board members in 2015 that he wanted to buy the school and property to establish his Happy Camper recreational vehicle repair business and actually live inside the old school, which was mothballed by the Wayland Union School District in 2003.
So now Austin apparently has decided to give up on his business operations and sell it, but at what price? $650,000!
What happened during these six years since Austin paid $45,600? Was oil or gold discovered? What am I missing here, or do board members need to plead temporary insanity to reckless expense of public funds?
If I were emperor (and of course I am not), I would have offered Austin a very generous $100,000, more than twice the price he paid to the schools, and then salted away the other $550,000 to create a special road fund to meet future repair and paving needs for Leighton’s crumbling roads.
And this doesn’t cover the estimated $250,000 that might one needed to tear down the old school building. And who knows what such razing will reveal in the way of further problems?
I hate to be naive about such an important matter, but I think the public deserves a much better explanation of such a puzzling expenditure than what was presented last Thursday night.
So, Leighton Township Board members — What is the reasoning behind spending $650,000 in federal ARPA funds for an old school and property that was sold for $45,600 six years ago?