DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 board members unanimously voted to sell Kiwanis Park to the DeKalb Park District without any public discussion Tuesday.
The vote ends a months-long saga over the fate of the 41.68-acre park at Fairview and South Fourth streets in DeKalb. The park district will buy the park for $625,000, the amount for which it was appraised about a year ago.
"It's good for the community," said board president Tom Matya in an interview after the meeting. "We have a good relationship with the park district, and I am glad this could be resolved."
Superintendent James Briscoe said the school district and the park district are working the technical details of the land purchase, including environmental testing. Briscoe hopes the school district will sell the park by the end of the month.
Executive Director Cindy Capek said the park district will use its capital fund reserves to purchase the park with one full payment. Park district board members approved the purchase Thursday.
Lisa Small, the park district's assistant director of finance and administration, said the district has $1.5 million in its capital fund reserves. As of March, the district had $3.9 million in reserves across all of its funds.
The DeKalb Park District leaders have been putting away money for the past couple of years so they can afford replacing the turf at Sports and Recreation Center, fixing the roof at Hopkins Community Center, and repaving some parking lots and pathways, Small said. Some of the parking lot projects will be delayed with the Kiwanis Park purchase.
"We were able to juggle some things around," Small said.
School officials had once considered transferring the park to developer ShoDeen Construction through a land swap. The district would have received 33 acres ShoDeen Construction owned by DeKalb High School.
The deal met with strong opposition from local residents. School and park board leaders agreed to work together to maintain the park as open space shortly thereafter. The park is heavily used by youth soccer leagues.
The school district initially bought Kiwanis Park in August 2002 for $1.4 million when it considered putting the new high school there, but school officials said they no longer had plans for the property.
The land swap proposal would have also cleared up a $1 million impact fee credit District 428 had with the developer. This year, the district has to pay ShoDeen $42,000 for interest on the impact fee credit. ShoDeen would have also paid the school district $654,000 for the improvements the district made around DeKalb High School.
School and park officials agreed the appraisal price of $15,000 per acre was fair.