The Forest City Community School District School Board approved purchasing 17.32 acres of land near the high school property for $80,000 during Monday's meeting Monday.
The parcel of land is off 350th Street and is connected to the school property to the north of the football and baseball fields, making it desirable by the Board as land near the school district property does not come up for sale often.
“There’s very little property that opens up around the school,” Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said.
Lehmann said they bought the property from Jerry Charlson in Des Moines, and they plan to get funds for the purchase from Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE), funded by statewide penny sales tax revenue.
According to Lehmann, the Board is considering turning the land into a solar farm to help power the school.
“By looking at that alternative energy is a general funds savings for us,” he said. “Any time we can control utility costs, that’s one of the options for us.”
Another option the Board was thinking about is putting some Future Farmers of America test plots in the field so the students can get the FFA experience, Lehmann said.
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Currently, the Board is still deciding on what to use that land for, and they’ve got about a year to consider since the 17.32 acres are under contract with the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency, making it protected land till 2021.
“We were going to honor [Charlson’s] CRP contract,” Lehmann said. “We have some time that we need to let lapse because of the CRP contract and to put a good solid plan together of what we will do.”
As a result, the school district owns the land but is leaving it in the CRP until 2021, as per the contract originally taken out by Charlson a few years ago.
According to the USDA Farm Service Agency website, the CRP “pays a yearly rental payment in exchange for farmers removing environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and planting species that will improve environmental quality.”
Lehmann said the CRP is just a way to take some land out of production and use it for things like wildlife, but this is done for a certain length of time and if the land is pulled out of the program earlier than the end of the contract, the contract holder would have a huge fine to pay.
The school board is also still considering what to do with the property across the street from the Boman Fine Arts Center, according to Lehmann.
“We’ll see where things go with future planning,” he said.