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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Purdy land dispute ends with city owning land where schools stand

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Surveyor Sam Goodman, standing at center, shows Purdy School Board members where the real boundaries lie for school property. Contrary to landstanding belief, half of the school buildings in Purdy are on city property. A deed giving possession of the city park and the high school to the school district was predated by an earlier deed, giving the property to the city. Looking on are School Superintendent Jerry Lingo, at center, and Randy Henderson, school board president, at right. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The debate in Purdy over who owns the city park, the city or the school district, has been resolved with some unexpected consequences. Surveyor Sam Goodman reported to the Purdy R-2 Board of Education this week that the park lies on city property and so do half of the school buildings.

Goodman had been researching land ownership since June at the request of the school board. Questions about property lines raised enough questions that board members felt the matter needed to be resolved.

Maps prepared by Goodman's office were distributed to board members along with copies of two deeds. The first deed, from Mr and Mrs. W.D. Cowherd dated July 2, 1930, granted possession of the entire plot from Highway C to Harris Drive behind the school buildings to the city. Third Street on the west and Fifth Street on the east were the outer boundaries. This includes what became the city park on the north quarter.

On May 31, 1938, the heirs to the Cowherd estate signed a quit claim deed bestowing the entire property again to the school district. Goodman said the heirs had no authority to do so.

"The city has senior rights," Goodman said. "The heirs assumed they had rights. It's all perfectly innocent, to a point."

After the original school burned, the city gave six acres, or the south half of the property, to the school district. The line roughly goes from east to west through the modular classroom in the middle of the school complex.

The division puts the elementary library, the elementary school and the middle school on school property. The high school and its gym, plus the new addition for administrative offices, sit on city property, according to Goodman.

A few other points of confusion remain. The division point was described on the deed so that "the outhouse [on the original property] belongs half to you and half to your neighbor," Goodman said. The location of the outhouse is not identified.

Different markers were used for the starting point used to measure the lots. While the east edge mostly lined up, Goodman said there is a three-foot difference over where the west edge lies.

In addition, Harris Drive at the rear of the school property does not show up on any map nor was there any record as to how it developed. Owned by the school district, Harris Drive has no formal right-of-ways held by the city. A 60-foot right-of-way would still fall inside the curb, Goodman said. The city had expressed its willingness to continue maintaining Harris Drive, he added.

Right-of-ways for Third and Fifth streets on the school district's six acres also remained the sole property of the school district, Goodman added.

Unlike private land deals, where one neighbor can gain possession of another's property by maintaining the other neighbor's property over a period of decades, the same rule will not apply in this case.

"There is no adverse possession on public entities," Goodman said. "With two public entities, you have a whole different ballgame."

Clarifying that he was not an attorney, Goodman advised the school board to seek legal counsel. Even if 70 years had been allowed to pass, the law did not appear to change ownership, Goodman said.

The city had been very cooperative in the document search, Goodman said. Some documents were kept in lock boxes and took some time to access.

"The matter needed to be resolved regardless," Goodman told the board members.

Goodman wanted direction from the board about finishing his maps of the property and specifically whether he should draw Harris Drive onto the final version. With the city council not due to meet under Nov. 9, board members asked Goodman to wait before proceeding further.

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