East Helena Public Schools officials signed a deal Wednesday to take ownership of 50 acres of Dartman Field, according to school district superintendent Ron Whitmoyer.
“The final cost to the district is $90,931,” he said.
“This is a banner day for the taxpayers of East Helena -- to have this property as a place to expand the school district as it continues to grow,” he said, “and hopefully serves the school district the next 50 years.”
Current school district enrollment is around 1,200 students, and the district could reach its enrollment capacity of 1,300 in the next three years.
The district has worked on acquiring the Dartman property, located just north of Radley School on Valley Drive, for close to six years.
The 50 acres, which will need remediation for arsenic contamination from the old East Helena lead smelter, is a donation from the Montana Environmental Trust Group.
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METG has owned the field and controls assets from a settlement with Asarco, which at one time operated the smelter.
The district's payment of $90,931 covers legal, technical, managerial and third-party costs, according to a previous Independent Record story.
The school district contracted Olympus Technical Services to apply for a $500,000 grant from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to use on the remediation efforts.
However, Whitmoyer said Wednesday, acquiring the field, whether or not the district gets the grant, still benefits the East Helena school district.
“No matter how you slice this, it’s still the most affordable property -- even if we have to go it alone,” he said. “This is the best decision.”
Installing infrastructure at any of the other sites the district considered in a 2014 Great West Engineering feasibility report would have been much more costly, he said.
East Helena citizens, school board members and staff have met for a series of meetings over the past year to look at various building options for expanding the district’s facilities to meet expected enrollment growth.
The school board will look at fall enrollment numbers, Whitmoyer said, to see if they are in line with projections, before it moves forward with facilities discussions.
Independent Record reporter Tom Kuglin contributed to this article.
Reporter Marga Lincoln can be reached at 447-4083 firstname.lastname@example.org