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Deal puts work on new schools back on schedule

An adjacent owner said the construction made of mess of his land, so the school district bought the property.

By LOGAN D. MABE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


WESTCHASE -- Faced with construction delays at two school sites in the Nine Eagles area, School Board attorneys hammered out a deal with a property owner who said the work would make a mess of his adjacent land.

The school district decided to buy the 20-acre site outright from Charles Weber, who represents a trust that owns the property. School Board members unanimously approved the $540,000 purchase at a special meeting Friday.

The district was losing time and money on the projects, and an assistant superintendent said the deal will actually save about $1-million in construction costs.

Work had just begun on a 19-acre site near Nine Eagles Drive and Race Track Road when Weber filed a petition with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the agency which issued the stormwater permit needed to begin construction. An elementary school and middle school are to be built on the site, and the elementary school is supposed to be ready for an August 2002 opening.

Swiftmud issued a stop work order and the district began losing about $20,000 a week on the idle contractors.

But district officials were able to strike a bargain with Weber, who will in turn drop his petition.

"This is what we hope will put us right back to work," said Jack Davis, assistant superintendent of operations.

By using the newly-acquired property for retention ponds, the district will save about $1-million that it would have spent to built massive underground water storage vaults. In addition, Davis said, the sellers have agreed to create a nature preserve and trails on the property at no cost to the district. And the purchase will allow the district to put in a second access point to the school limited to walking or bike riding students.

Davis said the acquisition price was "considered a bargain based on appraisals. The value is significantly higher."

- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 813-226-3464.

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