Landowner offers site for third high school

George Godas has offered to donate 40 to 50 acres of his land on Route Z north of I-70.
Monday, August 6, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA-A Columbia landowner who tried to donate 40 to 50 acres of land to Columbia Public Schools two years ago says his offer still stands, if the school district is interested.

George Godas said he will give the district a portion of his 212 acres located half a mile north of Interstate 70 on Route Z. If the district wants to purchase additional land from him, Godas said he will sell it at fair market value — approximately $18,000 to $20,000 per acre.

“If they want it, I’d be glad to do that,” said Godas, who has five school-age children in the district. “What more can you do for your kids or community?”

District officials announced last week that they may begin considering alternative sites for Columbia’s third main high school, but school board vice president Darin Preis said he didn’t want to comment on whether Godas’ property would be something that the board would consider.

Godas tried to give the district at least 40 acres two years ago, but he says “they couldn’t make up their mind,” and eventually turned him down. Former deputy superintendent Jacque Cowherd was in charge of the land negotiations.

“At that time, we had just started the planning process and there wasn’t an interest,” Cowherd said. “I communicated that to the (real estate) agent after talking to the superintendent.”

Cowherd said he was neutral on whether to accept Godas’ offer because there was no specific need for the land.

Now, if the district considers other sites for the high school, there could be a use for Godas’ land.

“We’re still at a point in our timeline where if something appropriate would come up, certainly we would consider it,” said assistant superintendent Lynn Barnett.

In late June, the school board approved an 80-acre site southeast of Columbia at New Haven and Rangeline roads for the school. The property, which lies three miles from Columbia city limits, would need significant infrastructure improvements — specifically with sewers and roads — before a school could open.

District officials have repeatedly said that any site large enough for a high school would likely not have the infrastructure ready to go.

Godas said he is already working to get sewer lines to his Route Z property. He expects to have sewers within two years because of his plans to develop the property for residential and commercial use.

“It’s beautiful, flat land,” he said. “They can take it as long as they use it for a school.”

One concern raised about the southeast site is the distance from the city’s center. Godas’ property is about the same distance — 8 miles — from the intersection of Broadway and Providence Road. Godas, however, thinks his property would be more accessible for students, especially in the northern sector of the district.

“If they put a school there, it’s so close to I-70 and St. Charles Road, and it’s easy to get to Mexico Gravel Road,” he said. “What better location?”

Godas said he would put $200,000 toward the building of a school on his property. With the donation, he would like to have naming rights — he would want to name the school for his father, Michael Godas — but said he would give the money regardless of whether he had the rights or not. He hopes the district will want the land this time around.

“If they change their mind, that’s fine,” Godas said. “They can have it tomorrow morning.”

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