The Washington School District plans to lease about 40 acres of land on east Highway 100 to a local farmer, who also happens to be a school board member.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the district advertised for bids and received only one — from Todd Geisert, whose family farms land near the district property.
Gesiert has been on the school board since 2009.
After some discussion, the board voted to approve a lease agreement. Gesiert abstained and another board member, Kevin Blackburn, was absent.
VanLeer said the property is currently not being used for anything. Last April, the district sought, but failed, to win voter approval to build a new middle school on the site.
With no concrete plans for the property right now, VanLeer said the decision was made to seek proposals to lease the land for farming purposes.
“A request for proposals was advertised in The Missourian and sent to interested parties,” she said. “I really didn’t know what kind of response we would get.”
VanLeer said since the lone bidder is a current school board member, she wants to make sure the process is as transparent as possible. She said the district’s legal counsel, Tueth, Kenney, Cooper, Mohan, Mohan & Jackstadt P.C., St. Louis, assisted with writing the agreement.
The superintendent also said entering into such a lease with a board member does not appear to be in conflict with district policy since it was put out to competitive bid.
“Board members are required to disclose any agreements with the district when they fill out their Missouri Ethics Commission form each year,” she said.
Terms of Lease
The lease is for two years with a renewal option. The lease will begin Jan. 1, 2014, and end on Dec. 31, 2015.
The agreement states the district may terminate after the first year with notice given by Oct. 1, 2014.
VanLeer said the district also can elect to terminate the lease at any time if the property was to be sold or built on. The district would reimburse for actual expenses if a crop was in the ground at that time, she said.
The lease stipulates the land can only be used for row cropping, and no other use. The land also can not be subleased.
Geisert must provide $2 million in insurance coverage for the property.
The rent is $3,075 for the first year, payable Jan. 1, 2014, and $3,100 for the second year. Rent for the two renewal years, if agreed to by the district, will be $3,125 and $3,150.
VanLeer said the district did consult with a realtor, and the bid received is in line with the going lease rate of $80 to $100 per acre.
Board member Dan Contarini asked if “there was history to draw on” in regard to entering into an agreement with a board member.
Brian Sumner, board member, said he thought so, but did not cite an example.
Board president Scott Byrne said the rent being charged seemed like a fair number and noted the district did seek bids.
Sumner said he’s surprised the district only received one bid.
VanLeer said she is not aware of any legal issues regarding the lease agreement, which was given to Geisert after the meeting to review.