Letters to the Editor

School Board shows lack of foresight in $3.25 million land purchase

This is the School District’s Middle Keys bus depot near Stanley Switlik Elementary School.
This is the School District’s Middle Keys bus depot near Stanley Switlik Elementary School. Keynoter

The Monroe County School Board has voted unanimously to purchase a piece of land on Stock Island for $3.25 million to locate its new transportation center. There was no discussion as to why this piece of land as opposed to any other is so important as to pay above the appraised value.

The land also contains a building about which there was no discussion as to its condition and usability. More importantly, the School District plans to do its due diligence regarding the property after the decision to purchase, not before. It strikes me that the district has the cart in front of the horse.

While a decision has been made to purchase the land, there has been no discussion whatsoever regarding the cost to build a transportation center there or anywhere else. If one were to buy a piece of land on which to build a home, you would think that you would consider the cost of the dwelling at the time of the land purchase so as to determine if the total cost was within your budget. When the city of Key West built its transportation center on Stock Island, it cost $7.8 million to construct. Will the School District face a similar expense?

Also, when the city built its transportation center, it did so largely with grant money, not the general fund. Where will the School District be obtaining its funding? Does it have on hand the necessary money for construction?

It seems to me that the public deserves a full accounting for the total cost of the transportation center, land and buildings. To proceed incrementally as the School Board is doing could result in a financial catastrophe considering that no one knows what the final cost will be. I do not know how the School Board in good conscience could vote to spend $3.25 million for land without knowing what the total expense was going to be.

Larry Murray, Big Pine Key