West Shore approves property sale, avoids eminent domain

logo school bus

West Shore School District avoided employing eminent domain on land it sought for a new intermediate school, as a sale was approved unanimously in a last-minute addition to Thursday's school board agenda.

Board members at the June 20 meeting expressed relief at the culmination of a purchase plan two years in the making that  involved a long search for the right property and "a lot of learning along the way."

Just a week earlier, the board had authorized eminent domain for the approximately 95-acre property in York County at the intersection of Valley and Beinhower roads in Fairview and Newberry townships, according to district records. It's part of a multi-school building project that stemmed from an ongoing feasibility study beginning in 2017.

The goal of the project is a reorganization of schools so the same student body would move together from grade to grade. To achieve that, the district plans to build a new elementary school and two intermediate schools.

Bids were recently accepted for a new Rossmoyne Elementary — the first phase of the project, for which the district borrowed about $25 million of the estimated $118 million total.

More:West Shore mulls eminent domain as land talks continue

Zach Williard, of PFM Financial Advisors, told district officials on Thursday that they would need to borrow about $6 million, or use cash from capital reserves, to finance the parcel.

"You can see we're back to the third lowest point in the last 25 or 30 years as far as municipal rates go," he said, referring to borrowing rates. "It might be a good idea to kind of keep those reserves there until we get through this next big borrowing."

He gave the district two options — borrow the needed $6 million or take advantage of low interest rates by borrowing the maximum bank-qualified limit, which would be closer to $10 million.

Some board members were in favor of conserving the district's cash reserves and taking advantage of historically low rates for upcoming project costs, but all agreed to wait on the decision until information was shared with three absent board members and the chair of the finance committee.

West Shore has 90 days to pay for the land, according to meeting discussion, and the board is planning to make a decision in July or August.

An attorney representing the landowner, Hughes Irrevocable Trust, could not be reached for comment.

The school board's next two meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. July 18 and August 8. Board feasibility committee meetings discussing project plans will be held at 4:45 p.m. both days.