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Land Board unanimously approves land swap for UI outdoor science campus in McCall

Idaho's state Land Board has voted unanimously in favor of a land exchange to trade the University of Idaho's McCall Outdoor Science School property for a 32,138-square-foot office building in Idaho Falls that houses Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory. The office building, known as Education Research Center 1, has an existing lease with Battelle that runs for another seven years, and annual base rent is $538,312. That compares to the $248,000 that UI is currently paying to lease the McCall property, which is adjacent to Ponderosa State Park.

The university plans to buy the McCall property from the office building owner for its appraised value, $6.1 million. UI has leased the McCall property from the state endowment for 65 years; this year, the annual lease payment went up fivefold. Land Board members had several questions before their unanimous vote, noting that the two properties being exchanged have equal value and the rate of return to the state endowment will substantially increase.

“I want to thank the staff for the background information that they provided that showed the impact this would have on the property tax base in Bonneville County and also historically the impact that state owned lands has had on the property tax of Bonneville County,” said state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. “It was helpful for me, it answered my questions.” Lands Department staff reported that Bonneville County collected $36,000 in property tax in 2011 from the office building, and once it becomes state endowment property, it'll generate no local property tax, meaning the rest of property taxpayers in the county make up the difference. However, since statehood, 64,669 acres of endowment land has been sold to private parties in Bonneville County, an estimated $45 million in property value that generated nearly $550,000 in local property taxes in 2011.

Click below for a statement from the University of Idaho about the transaction involving “one of the most beautiful and pristine settings in the world,” its McCall outdoor science campus.


University of Idaho Statement on McCall Outdoor Science School

“I am extremely pleased that the University will now have the opportunity to acquire the title to our campus in McCall, with the decision made by the State Board of Education.  With the exchange approved by the Land Board today, we have a positive outcome for all parties,” said Duane Nellis, University of Idaho president. “The McCall Outdoor Science School is an important part of our university and an important asset for our state. It is here at MOSS that we are national leaders in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.  MOSS also provides thousands of Idaho’s K-12 students with a one-of-a-kind learning experience in one of the most beautiful and pristine settings in the world.”

What is MOSS:

Ø  The McCall Outdoor Science School is a University of Idaho program that was founded in 2001. The schools and its partner’s foster scientific literacy, enlighten leadership and open-mind dialogue through graduate and professional education, youth science programs, seminars, conferences and leadership development initiatives. 

Ø  MOSS is the only publicly operated K-12 residential outdoor school in the state of Idaho.

Ø  The mission of MOSS is to facilitate place-based, collaborative science inquiry within the context of Idaho’s land, water and communities.  It provides experiential learning opportunities among students, educators, scientists and citizens to foster the critical thinking skills necessary to address complex problems.

Ø  MOSS values collaboration achieving success through a united effort, both as individuals on a team and as an individual program working within a community. 

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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