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Tough Economy: School Board Says No to Keslinger Site Proposition

In the old days, it might have been a no-brainer: Join with a business to bring sewer and water service to a site out west that the district can use for maintenance, buses and practice fields. Not any more. Spending is tight, and priorities are elsewher

Even five years ago, this proposal might have made sense.

A local developer asks the School District to join in a partnership deal. The idea is to split the cost of bringing sewer and water services out to Brundige and Keslinger roads. The School District can then develop its 28.04-acre site on the northwest corner, while the developer—in this case Gerard Keating—can bring sewer and water to the 12-acre property he hopes to develop into a group of businesses, including a veterinary clinic, on the northeast corner.

The School District gets maintenance space, bus parking and practice fields—or at the least the potential for those uses down the road—at a fraction of what it would cost now or later on. And the tax dollars from development of the property would help the district recapture as much as 96 percent of its investment.

"This is a choice of spending a little bit now to gain a lot more in the future," Superintendent Kent Mutchler said, a "pay it forward" win-win kind of deal that has worked for Geneva schools and businesses in the past.

But these are different economic times. The School Board voted unanimously Monday night to reject the proposal.

School Board member Mark Grosso spoke first, after Assistant School Superintendent Donna Oberg brought Keating's proposal for consideration. Oberg explained that the district's investment would not exceed $298,000.

"Partnering with him seems more like a business venture than investing in education right now," Grosso said. "Given the state of the economy, I don't know that I could support putting in water and sewer right now."

Then, up and down the row, School Board members expressed similar concerns.

"OK, so there's potential tax dollars, but we're not going to see that for at least two years," board member Bill Wilson said. "And the longer it takes for him to build out, the longer it will take for us to see tax dollars."

"I have a problem giving him what would be a $300,000 loan," Wilson added. "I don't know if we'll ever see our money back out of it."

"What your'e banking on is capital gain in the future," Tim Moran said. "And there's a time crunch for that captital gain. I concur with the comments that have been made. I just don't think I can support it."

"This is a private venture," Matt Henry said. "I hate to see that amount of money taken away from the students and the staff."

"I'm not opposed to doing a business venture," School Board President Mary Stith said. "But we have this football field (issue), and we need to think about and whether we're going to have that or not."

The football field issue is the $1 million estimated cost of bringing artificial turf to Burgess Field or rebuilding the existing grass field. Drainage issues have limited the use of the field for practices, games and band practices.

A subcommittee of the Geneva All-Sports Boosters is developing a multi-tiered fund-raising campaign called "Rebuild Burgess Field," which is hoping to raise $500,000 for the artifical-turf surface.

Keating is developing the parcel on the northeast corner as a Planned Unit Development with Kane County. Sewer and water service in the unincorporated area would not come from the city of Geneva, but from the Mill Creek Water Reclamation District.

The project is called Brundige Green, and has received PUD zoning approval, said Ken Anderson, manager of the county's Subdivision and Special Projects Division. Anderson said the site is in Phase 1 of the development process, and Keating is seeking tenants, including a veterinary clinic.

Calls to Keating's office on Tuesday morning were not returned.

Oberg said the School District isn't sure at this time whether it will keep or sell its 28-acre parcel at Brundige and Keslinger. The upside of Keating's proposal is that the school district would probably recapture 96 percent of its cost through tax revenue, Oberg said.

"The downside is, who knows when the eonomy is going to pick up?"

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