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UUSD to trade school property with local developer, Coren discusses recent deaths from covid

September 10, 2021 — Public Health reported three more deaths from covid-19 this week, all of them under fifty, all of them unvaccinated. The youngest was a 36-year-old woman from Ukiah. A 43-year-old Covelo man and a 47-year-old man from Ukiah also succumbed. And the county reported 77 new cases yesterday.

Program director Alicia Bales spoke with Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren Thursday afternoon, when there was only one available ICU bed in the entire county. By Friday afternoon’s briefing, there were three available beds. Core reported that hospital staff are exhausted, and help from the state is “tapped out.”

Coren also spoke about an order he had been contemplating to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining establishments, an idea that did not receive a warm reception from the local business community. He is now considering a recommendation that restaurants and bars require verification of vaccination from employees and screen the vaccination status of patrons before they come inside. He will also require that establishments post signs about their vaccination policies.

The county fair is proceeding, with vaccination clinics outside the gates.

The vaccines are still highly effective. “The threat that I don’t think is recognized by the people who are not getting vaccinated is that they are the field that this virus is growing and multiplying and mutating on,” Coren reflected.

 

School is back to in-person learning, and the Ukiah Unified School District Board of Trustees met in person at their office in Ukiah last night, though the public was not in attendance. One item that has been in the works since well before the pandemic is an effort to offload surplus properties that used to be schools. Two decommissioned schools in Hopland and Redwood Valley were declared surplus in 2018. Last night, the board voted unanimously to begin the process to exchange the Redwood Valley property with GMB Realty, run by Gary Breen of Hopland winery Campovida and Emerald Sun, a multi-use cannabis facility on the south end of Ukiah. Steve Barekman, the school district’s chief business officer, explained that “It’s really hard for school districts to sell property. The state doesn’t really like us doing that...what’s going to happen is, we find a buyer who wants our property, we’re going to find a property we want, they’re going to acquire that property, then we’re going to do an exchange, a trade. Thus the term exchange agreement.” The building acquired by the school district could be used for a variety of purposes. It could be a future school site, a warehouse or a revenue-generating property.

Two Redwood Valley residents called in to object, including Estelle Clifton, who said the site, at 700 School Way, is prime  real estate. “It’s really a large chunk of land in an ideal location,” she said, adding that the site was donated years ago for the community’s benefit, “but there’s no recouping that kind of a loss. 

Barekman said the costs of rehabilitating the property would be prohibitive, describing them as “astronomical.” The ADA requirements on a steeply sloped section of the property he added, would be “insane.” He told the board that the estimated cost of rehabilitating the decommissioned campus in Hopland, which is much smaller, was well over three million dollars, and that he suspected that the cost of recommissioning the much larger and topographically more complicated Redwood Valley site would be many times as much.

Trustee Bea Arkin said the board has explored other options, to no avail. “It’s not okay to keep the building there just because it’s a wonderful memory,” she said. Trustees hope that the property will be used for housing, and Chair Megan van Sant sought to assure the public that the buyer had agreed not to use the property for cannabis-related purposes.

The school district now has an exclusive agreement with GMB realty, which has a 270 day window to perform its due diligence on the property. 

 
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