Bay County School District trades old school to settle debt with Bay County and TDC

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Leaders from Bay District Schools, Bay County, and the Tourist Development Council have apparently reached an agreement to trade some property to erase some debt.

The district is giving the county the historic St. Andrews School to pay for the cost of building a road.

Bay District School officials agreed to pay for half the cost to build a new road.

Chip Seal Parkway provides access to the new Panama City Beach Sports Complex and the Walsingham K-8 Academy now under construction.

When the $2.6 million dollar bill came due for their half of the road construction, district officials didn’t have it. To settle the debt, the district is giving Bay County the St. Andrews School.

“Next week the county commission will be asked to also approve the joint resolution between the county, TDC, and Bay District Schools. The Department of Education also has to weigh in on it to make sure that they’re good with everything also,” said Tourist Development Council President, Dan Rowe.

 It’s not the first time the district has made this type of deal.

“We have had other schools in the past where we deemed them surplus and donated them to the community, A.D. Harris is one of those, we know post-hurricane that there was so much damage to St. Andrews School that we were never going to open it back up as a school,” said Bay District School Board Chairman, Steve Moss.

The county has a better chance of raising money for the repairs through community development block grants.

“The school is very, very old, so it’s obviously paid for, this is just a win-win for them, they are not having to come out of pocket with any money to pay for that debt,” said Bay County Commission Chairman, Griff Griffits.

“As a historic site, you have to put it back in that historic platform. So we are not going to say ‘build to it’, but enhance it and put it back to what it was like back in 1926,” said Panama City Commissioner for Ward 4, Mike Nichols.

Once repaired, the county plans to lease the campus to Panama City for a dollar a year.

City officials say they have big plans for the property.

“We want to make it a community center, we want it to be a place where the community can come out, put artists in here to show their crafts, maybe even possibly move the farmers market down here and then talk about the city’s history,” said Nichols.

The one thing you won’t see there is a school. The contract has restrictions against the county selling it or leasing it to anyone who wants to open a private or charter school.

County commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposal at their next meeting. Griffits hopes the county will own the property by the end of the year.

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