(Posted July 27, 2018)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Garrette Park in West Jefferson—thought by some to fall under village control but actually owned by Jefferson Local Schools—could switch hands if the two entities reach an agreement.
During a July 23 school board work session, Superintendent William Mullett said he and board President David Harper recently met with West Jefferson Mayor Ray Martin and a village council representative to informally discuss the issue, including land adjoining the park where the Frey school building once stood.
“Garrette Park belongs to us, but it doesn’t serve any real function for us,” Mullett said. “We’ve put in a sidewalk and trimmed some trees, but we don’t want to be in the playground business.”
At the same time, Mullett said he realizes how important the park is to the community and acknowledged the school district wants to make a decision that benefits residents.
“We could offer up the park (to the village), but there is some value in the Frey property,” he said. “However, the old football field does not belong to us. It belongs to the (West Jefferson Community Association).”
While the time might come when the school district needs to add another building, the 3.5-acre Frey site is too small for even another elementary building.
“You need around nine acres,” Mullett said, adding that proceeds from a potential sale of the Frey site could offset the cost of security upgrades in the school district.
Harper, who noted that his grandmother taught at what is now the central office before moving to the Frey building and teaching middle school classes, said the district would first need a current valuation of the Frey property before entering into negotiations with the village.
Harper said it appears the park and Frey site could be contiguous to the church property the village recently acquired.
School board member Dr. Meg Hiss said she would feel more comfortable about a Frey land agreement with the village if the document contained a stipulation that the acreage remain some type of green space and not open for development.
“We have a responsibility to the neighboring homeowners,” she said.
No timeline was established and no action was taken during the board work session.
“What’s expected right now is for us to come up with a value following an appraisal,” Harper said.
He added that Garrette Park once served as a playground for the Frey school building. The Garrette family donated the land to the school district.