Richland School Board weighs land purchase

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 5, 2014 

The Richland School Board will meet Friday morning to discuss purchasing about 50 acres of land in the Badger Mountain South development, a parcel large enough to house a middle school.

The board will review a report on the land purchase during the meeting. The property's value and exact location were not available Monday and a vote on whether to buy it isn't scheduled. Superintendent Rick Schulte was not available for comment.

District officials have been scrambling to find property suitable for a middle school project, which was part of a $98 million bond approved by voters more than a year ago.

However, whether the Badger Mountain South property would be used for that purpose if it is purchased will be up to the board, said Kevin Knodel, the district's executive director of capital projects.

The bond also is paying for a new elementary school in south Richland, the rebuilding of three central Richland elementary schools, the replacement of the oldest wing of Jefferson Elementary School and the heating and cooling system at Chief Joseph Middle School, a home for the Three Rivers HomeLink alternative school program, and safety upgrades at Fran Rish Stadium.

The district has been moving forward with most of the projects and is even prepared to select an architect for the middle school project after reviewing proposals. However, the district doesn't own any property that is large enough or far enough away from an existing middle school.

While not scheduled to be built for a few more years, delays in finding suitable land could stall the project, Superintendent Rick Schulte has said. With two of the district's three middle schools already overcrowded, there have been proposals to instead build another elementary school and move sixth-graders back to elementary schools to accommodate growing student enrollment.

Badger Mountain South, encompassing 1,500 acres and located near the Dallas Road and Interstate 82 interchange, is being developed by a Tacoma-based company. The mixed-use development could potentially be home to 15,000 people but also include commercial properties, open space and healthcare facilities.

The development is in the Richland urban growth area, Knodel said. That means it would be able to access water and sewer services, unlike some other potential middle school sites considered by the board.

One potential drawback? Badger Mountain South is almost entirely vacant at this point in time, with maybe six occupied homes.

"We'd have to bus students in," Knodel said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

Richland School Board special meeting

When: 8 a.m. Friday

Where: District offices, 615 Snow Ave., Richland

Details: Board will review feasibility report for purchase and sale agreement of property in Badger Mountain South development

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