Fairfield Schools buys 32 acres from township, but no plans yet after $1.3M deal

Fairfield Twp. and Fairfield City Schools have closed on their 32-acre land deal. The district will pay the township $1.3 million for the land on the property formerly known as Graceworks, but school officials have said they have no immediate plans for the land but intends to hold on to it for future growth of the district. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE
Fairfield Twp. and Fairfield City Schools have closed on their 32-acre land deal. The district will pay the township $1.3 million for the land on the property formerly known as Graceworks, but school officials have said they have no immediate plans for the land but intends to hold on to it for future growth of the district. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

Fairfield Twp. closed last week on a $1.3 million deal to sell 32 acres off of Gilmore Road to Fairfield City Schools for future development.

But schools spokeswoman Gina Gentry-Fletcher reiterated Monday that there are “no immediate plans for the land.”

Any expansion within the 10,000-student school district, which draws students from Fairfield city and township, would be in the township because it has the greatest opportunity for residential growth.

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Gentry-Fletcher said the school district is thankful for the “opportunity to purchase the land at such a reasonable price.”

Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith said during a September school board meeting that land in the area sells for more than $65,000 per acre, but the schools paid about $40,000 per acre for land that already has sewer line access. He also said in September the sale “allows the district to have a plan in place if it decides to consider new buildings.”

School district attorney John Clemmons said the sale was finalized on Nov. 26.

“It’s a good purchase for the school district,” he said. “Land in both the city and the township is getting scarce, and this is an opportunity the school board felt they couldn’t pass up.”

The deal had been months in the making. The township transferred the 32 acres, which is part of the property formerly known as Graceworks, in mid-August to its Community Improvement Corporation. The school district will pay for the land with an existing permanent improvement bond approved by Fairfield voters in 2014.

Fairfield Twp. administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the money will bolster the general fund. She said this would help the township maintain its Moody’s Aa2 bond rating, which is the third-highest credit rating a local government can receive.

Township fiscal officer Shelly Schultz said the money will also help the township pay cash for its planned 2020 projects, including widening Gilmore Road, remodeling the police station, building a new service station, constructing a new Princeton Road culvert and installing playground equipment at Heroes Park.

The township is also planning $700,000 in road paving next year, and is hoping to avoid borrowing for those projects.

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Schultz said the township refinanced its bonds for a project for improvements and an expansion to Bypass Ohio 4, which had 10 years remaining, and will save on interest payments. She said if the township paid off the $1.8 million balance, trustees would likely have needed to take on new debt for next year’s projects.

The township will also count on $1.7 million coming from the city of Hamilton to pay for the new roundabout at Gilmore and Hamilton-Mason roads. The township paid for the project upfront, and the city is to reimburse the township, Shultz and Vonderhaar said.