Montezuma County closes sale of Justice Building for $100,000

Friday, July 20, 2018 9:32 AM
The old Montezuma County Justice Building will soon become the new home of the Children’s Kiva Montessori School.

The sale of the old Montezuma County Justice Building has officially closed, going to Children’s Kiva Montessori School for a fraction of its list price.

On July 9, the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution authorizing Administrator Melissa Brunner to sign a sales agreement with the school, which has been working toward a relocation to 601 N. Mildred Road since early this year.

On July 12, Brunner confirmed that the county officially sold the building for $100,000, less than 7.7 percent of its $1.3 million asking price in January 2017.

The Montessori school is scheduled to move into the new building from its current location on North Beech Street just in time for the beginning of the school year in August.

Brunner said the building’s original list price was based on the price per square foot that the city of Cortez paid for the former headquarters of The Journal, now City Hall, at 123 Roger Smith Ave. That building went for almost $3 million in 2015.

But after the Justice Building spent more than a year on the market with no serious offers, Brunner said, the county decided to accept the Montessori school’s significantly lower price.

Commissioner Larry Don Suckla said he believes the sale will still save money for the county in the long run.

“The building was costing us $30,000 per year for utilities,” he said. “(The sale) is a good thing because it’s for school kids.”

He also said the sale gave the commissioners an opportunity to get rid of a complex ownership agreement under which the county owned the Justice Building, but the city of Cortez owned part of the parking lot and surrounding property. The City Council voted to terminate that agreement on June 26.

Century 21 real estate agent Jo Ann Cauley represented the county in the sale of the building.

Susan Likes, the Kiva’s head of school, said in an email on Wednesday that school staff felt they could offer a lower price for the building because they knew it contained asbestos and lead paint.

“It was going to require extensive demolition and remodeling to convert the building from a jail to a school,” she wrote. “The school factored the abatement and remodeling costs into its evaluation of the value of the building.”

She said the school has already started demolition on parts of the building that don’t contain asbestos, and plans to begin the abatement process “as soon as possible.”

The sale’s closing date came after months of negotiations between the county and the school, as well as several official actions by the Cortez municipal government. In March, the City Council voted to allow schools as a conditional use in the open zone where the building is located, and approved the Kiva’s conditional use permit in April.

Also in April, the county ordered the building’s only remaining tenant, the Bridge Emergency Shelter, to leave the building. A new shelter location is under construction on North Park Street, but the Bridge is still searching for a temporary location to use during construction.

The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office evidence locker is also located in the building. On Wednesday, Sheriff Steve Nowlin said his department has two years to find a new location for it.

Although Likes said the remodel won’t be complete by the beginning of the school year, the Kiva does plan to open part of the building for students by Aug. 20.

She said that part of the building “will meet all building and safety codes for a school.”