Trustees discuss fate of old grade school at work session

Editor’s note: Following is a statement, issued by the town of Meeker, about the future of the old Meeker Elementary School, which was vacated at the end of the school year.
Mandi Etheridge, mayor of the town of Meeker, said of a recent work session with Richard Sales, associate director of the Colorado Center for Community Development, about possible future options for the old elementary school, “It helped us put everything on the table … and begin to narrow it down and mold into potential options.”
Etheridge said those options will be discussed at a future meeting of the town board.
“We need to talk about it and put all of this on the agenda for public notification purposes and discuss it at a public meeting to take it to the next level,” Etheridge said. “So it will probably be sometime in September when we’ll officially make a board decision on which direction to go from this point forward.”

MEEKER I In a work session Aug. 5, town trustees discussed the old elementary school property at Fifth and Main Street.
The town will become the owner of this property once the school is out of the building. This is due to a reverter clause on the property placed on the deed back when the school was first built.
The town board requested that Richard Sales of CCCD facilitate the work session to help trustees focus on what the best options for the property might be. Trustees have heard a great variety of ideas, from many citizens and community studies, on what current needs of the community are.
Housing, in many studies, especially senior and affordable housing has risen to the top of the list of needs. Another stated need is the ability of the downtown to grow in order to increase viability of the entire downtown.
After a great deal of discussion by the trustees that looked at needs, costs, downtown vision, potential and private vs. public ownership, Sales is suggesting that they may find consensus on the following items:
The town should consider using the north portion of the school site, along Fourth Street and Park Avenue, for a housing project to provide senior and/or critical work force housing. This will require the removal of the “newer” portion of the elementary school building. Sales recommends that the town seek a developer who would be interested in a private development or possibly and private/ public partnership to create this housing and that the town contact the Department of Local Affairs Housing Division to seek information on other, similar, successful projects. Grants may be available to help offset costs.
The parking, including parking for the county, may want to be maintained on site as well as some of the recreational activity area for basketball and other sports.
Sales also suggested that the town seek a buyer for the original part of the school building. The hope being that some private developer will renovate the building into contributing commercial space for the rest of downtown, while saving the architecturally historic structure.
Should that buyer be unable to be found, the financial reality may be that the building should be removed and the remaining land sub-divided into buildable lots for downtown retail and commercial use, adding to the vibrancy of business in downtown Meeker. The town simply does not have the financial means to take this project on as a primary project.
The closing of Fifth Street has been discussed but remains an open issue. At some future date this could be considered if some greater public good could be created.
The trustees think that creating and fostering further improvements to downtown that make it attractive to visitors and citizens is important. They are open to such ideas as more art and play features downtown if there are creative programs to fund them.
Lastly, the Board of Trustees suggested that with the lack of school traffic they can re-stripe parking along the adjacent streets to allow for more parking downtown. Town Administrator Sharon Day offered to discuss that with staff and implement as soon as possible.
As this was a work session, no decisions were made. Further public meetings with the town will be held to discuss these ideas and possibly take formal action.