After several months of planning and discussing, the Newton Community School District officially accepted a bid on the former Maytag Home/school district office during Monday’s first of two public hearings on the matter.
The winning bid came from Steve and Laura Jochems, who bid $55,311 and plans to turn the property into a private residence.
Thombert Inc. CEO Walt Smith, who had been the most public bidder on the property, bid $50,550. Another bid, which was withdrawn, came from former Sheriff Mike Balmer and his wife Kimberly, who had bid $80,000 on the property. The Balmers withdrew due to concerns over asbestos.
The measure passed 6-1, with board member Dennis Combs being the single “No” vote. Combs, who is a realtor by trade, expressed concern with selling the property without first making some outlying conditions to potential owners.
“The one thing that you run into that can lead to egg on your face is inactivity,” Combs said. “My concern, would be to make sure that whatever party that we agree with … that we have some kind of way to make sure that over a period of time that it will be fully maintained and preserved. It is a piece of history as well as just a house.
“I don’t think we need to set a minimum spending (limit), per se, but up to some standard would be a good thing over a period of time,” he continued. “Because if in three years it’s still sitting there, it will be a very, very poor reflection of this board not to have had a mechanism (in place) to encourage them to have this done.”
Combs also cited personal experiences in the real estate industry, as a reason the board should seek to add a clause. However, other board members disagreed, and Donna Cook pointed out that because the board put no such stipulation in the RFP agreement, they shouldn’t make demands after the fact.
Superintendent Bob Callaghan advised the board that it could set parameters for the sale; however, such measures also would allow the bidder to withdraw from the deal.
Board member Sherri Benson said that it would be hypocritical, to a certain extent, if the board tried to enforce a measure upon the new potential owners.
“We haven’t done anything with this property for over a year ourselves. We haven’t been good neighbors,” Benson said before posing a question directly to Combs. “And now, we are in the position where we need to be dictating how other people can be good neighbors?”
“Absolutely,” Combs said.
Board members Nat Clark and Cook both openly disagreed with Comb’s assessment on the situation and commented on the matter.
“I would say that we should have done that long ago, if that was our intent,” Cook said of implementing stipulations for purchasing the property. “Since we have not, we need to go with what we have now. I think that it’s important that we get rid of the property now.”
“I feel we told the public we would do our due diligence in emptying the building, so we could sell it,” Clark said. “It’s empty, and somebody wants to buy it. Get rid of it, and get it back on the tax rolls to where we get financial assistance from someone who owns it paying taxes.”
After approving the measure, the board set the second public hearing 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.