Town wants to save school



March 2, 2010 - 12:00 AM

KINCAID — If sentimentality could be translated to dollars, Kincaid Rural High School would spring to life as a community center.
About 20 people, several of them graduates of the high school, met here last night to consider ways the school, now privately owned and with an unpaid $6,464 property tax bill, could become a meeting place, nutrition and fitness center and library, with part perhaps even remodeled into a bed and breakfast.
Some promised money, others said they would mow grass and help with remodeling and maintenance, but nothing concrete came from discussions and nothing likely will until more specific information is available.
Ann Donaldson, who with her husband Jack organized the meeting, encouraged continued consideration.
“Just about everyone who is a longtime resident and has direct ties to the school is here,” Jack Donaldson said.
Kincaid, in southeast Anderson County 12 miles north of Moran, has 130 residents.

THE HIGH SCHOOL was built through the Works Progress Administration in the mid-1930s. Cost was $100,000 for the two-story brick edifice, with a basement dug with slips and mule teams.
It opened in 1936 and turned out graduates until 1967. Statewide consolidation of hundreds of small school districts prompted the Crest District, which includes Kincaid, to move high school students to Colony.
The school was then used as a junior high school and later a middle school.
Five years ago, middle school classes, along with lower grades from the town’s elementary school, built in the 1960s, were moved to Colony.
The school buildings were then sold to two men in Utah. Ann Donaldson said at that time, talk was that the schools were going to be made into a destination for wayward boys. Instead they sat vacant.
Within the last year the schools have been on the market. Kincaid’s city councilmen considered acquisition for a community center, but financial considerations of repairs and long-term maintenance put that on the shelf.
Neither the city nor citizens have indicated any interest in the elementary school, which, one man observed, “wasn’t built nearly as well as the high school.”
Ann Donaldson called Kelly Buchanan of St. George, Utah, who owns the high school.
“I got the idea that he’d be willing to let us have the school if we’d pay the property taxes,” she said. “He wants to get rid of it.”
Leonard Leadstrom, a city councilman, said he thought Anderson County commissioners might consider “a deal on the taxes,” if a community group were to express interest.
“Might be — and this is only me talking — they’d negotiate the second half taxes if we paid the first half,” of $3,232, Leadstrom said.
Even that would be daunting for a citizen coalition of so few. Money also would be needed for remodeling to bring the building up to code, and still more money for long-term maintenance.
Money is where the USDA or some other benevolent governmental agency might step in, said Ann Donaldson, with the observation that she wished an invited representative from the USDA had attended last night’s meeting to talk about grants.
“He said he would be here,” she said, but wasn’t.
The Donaldsons, Jack a 1958 and Ann a 1964 graduate of Kincaid High, admit that sentimentality might be trumped by pragmatism, but “we want to try something.”
“Tonight’s meeting was to gauge interest,” Jack said. “Really we’re just stumbling along. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
“We’re just trying to figure out if there is anything we can do,” Ann added.

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