Board Votes To Sell Arvest Building
PRAIRIE GROVE — In April 2017, Prairie Grove School Board voted to purchase the Arvest Bank building in downtown Prairie Grove for $600,000 to use as a new administration building. Last week, the Board changed its mind and voted to try to sell the building.
Board members briefly discussed whether they wanted to keep the building at the end of their July meeting, according to Reba Holmes, interim superintendent. Holmes placed the Arvest Bank facility as an item for discussion on the board’s Aug. 20 meeting agenda.
After the meeting, J.C. Dobbs, board vice president, said feedback from the community was that some people did not like the idea of administration moving off-campus.
“I wouldn’t say we made a mistake but sometimes you think about things again,” Dobbs said. “I think it’s probably best to keep administration on campus.”
Prairie Grove School District bought the Arvest building using a “Bargain Sale Real Estate Contract.” At the time, former Superintendent Allen Williams explained a contract is considered a bargain sale if the purchase price is below the appraised value. The Arvest property appraised for $920,000. The difference in the purchase price and the appraisal was to be considered a charitable donation from Arvest to the school district.
The $600,000 purchase price included slightly more than half an acre of land, the building, furnishings inside the bank, a parking lot and unimproved property north of the parking lot.
As part of the purchase, Arvest agreed to pay $6,000 per month to lease the building until it moved into its new facility on Heritage Parkway. So far, the school has received $70,000 in lease payments.
The contract has a deed restriction that prohibits the use of the property as a bank or related business for 35 years from the purchase date.
When the purchase was agreed upon last year, Mike Willard, who at the time was president and chief executive officer of Arvest Bank for this region, said the decision was a “win” for the bank’s customers and the community. Arvest would move into a more visible, accessible new building and its space downtown would not be left empty.
Willard said Arvest believed it was important not to have an empty building downtown.
Prairie Grove School District was the only organization to submit a written offer for the bank property, but the city of Prairie Grove also had expressed interest in buying the Arvest building for a new public library.
Last year, Mayor Sonny Hudson said the city had made a verbal offer of $500,000 but when he heard the school district also was interested in the property, he knew the city could not be able to compete with the school.
Board member Jerry Coyle last week said the board saw purchasing the building as a good idea and “jumped on it.” However, after leasing the building to Arvest for the past year, he said board members began to realize it “may not be the best idea in the world” to move the administration offices away from the main campus.
“I think the best idea is to have administration on campus,” Coyle said.
Coyle said he personally asked Holmes what she thought about moving offices and Holmes indicated she preferred to stay on campus where she wouldn’t have to be traveling back and forth from the administration office to other school buildings.
Holmes said from a security standpoint, she thinks the administration should stay on campus.
“As of right now, we are comfortable where we are,” Holmes said.
The administration office is now located in what was the second grade wing of the old Primary School. Holmes’ office is in one classroom. Another classroom is used for district administrative staff. Williams as assistant superintendent of finance is in another classroom in the building
Assistant superintendents David Kellogg and Pete Joenks are located in the professional development area at the middle school building.
Holmes said she believes it makes sense to keep everything as it is since she is serving in an interim capacity.
The school district used money from its building fund to pay for the facility.