School board seeks land acquisition attorney as property search continues

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By Mallory Bilger

In what seems to be the Spencer County Board of Education’s never-ending search for land, the board has now directed Superintendent Chuck Adams to retain legal counsel specializing in land acquisition law.
The board voted on the issue at its June meeting after discussing it in executive session under the legal provision of future acquisition of real property. The board’s discussions of purchasing property to construct a new elementary school with room for another building date back to 2008.
While the board has been interested in several properties, land owners and the board have not been able to see eye to eye on price. Most recently the board was considering a 24.7-acre tract off Ky. 44 known as the Tanglewood Golf Course driving range. But that property abuts Spencer County Fish and Game Club property — which houses a gun range — posing a public perception issue for the board. The board made an offer on the game club’s property, but it was refused.
Superintendent Chuck Adams said in February the board might be forced to consider eminent domain if no affordable properties with sewer access were identified.
According to the Kentucky Eminent Domain Act of 1976, eminent domain is the right of the Commonwealth to take land for a public purpose, and shall include the right of private persons, corporations, or business entities, to do so under authority of law. According to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service Department of Forestry Fact Sheet, “In essence, eminent domain allows for a government entity to take private property for the public good, as long as just compensation is provided to the landowner.”
In an interview last week, Adams said the board wanted to obtain counsel specializing in land acquisition law because the board’s general counsel is not directly experienced in that area.
“We want somebody who can address specific statutes and work as a liason with the Kentucky Department of Education,” he said.  
Adams said the possibility of eminent domain has not been dismissed, but did confirm that the board was not currently attempting to acquire the Fish and Game Club property through that process. He also said that eminent domain could be mutually beneficial.
“Eminent domain wouldn’t be considered unless the landowner agreed to it,” he said.
Adams said he felt optimistic the board was moving in the right direction, but many of the preliminary discussions regarding land acquisition are held in closed session and are not discussed publicly until a decision to make an offer has been made by the board.
Quick facts about the proposed elementary project:
• The board has requested a 600-student facility with space on the construction site for another 600-student facility.
• The proposed building would have two preschool classrooms, 24 elementary classrooms, a special education room, six elementary resource rooms, an art room, a music room, a computer room, a library/media center, a space for physical education and a site-based decision making council allotment space. Other areas include the administrative area, custodial receiving, family resource, kitchen and cafeteria.
• The school is projected to be approximately 48,645 square feet.
• The total estimated cost for the project was listed on the proposal as $14,378,919. That cost includes construction, architectural fees, site acquisition, equipment/furnishings and more. However, as time passes, that price will likely increase.