MANATEE-- The Manatee County School Board approved a $2.95 million property sale at its meeting Tuesday night.
The property involves 20 acres of undeveloped outlying land at Braden River High School on State Road 70.
Superintendent Rick Mills said selling the property was necessary.
"This is critical to our fund balance," Mills said. "If we do not go forward, we will not make fund balance without it."
The school board approved the contract with Blackrock Development Holdings of Bradenton in a 3-1 vote with vice chairman Dave "Watchdog" Miner voting against.
School board member Robert Gause recused himself citing his development consulting firm Allison Gause Inc. as a possible conflict of interest.
In a previous proposed deal, Blackrock pulled out from a contract for the Owens Annex building, better known as the "Checker's" property, after offering $1.65 million. Blackrock terminated the contract in May saying the space was unsuitable for a PDQ restaurant.
"This is why we stipulated a higher amount of earnest money," board member Karen Carpenter said. "I would like to have regular updates."
Blackrock has a 60-day due diligence period, and must close on the property no later than 30 days following the due diligence period.
Mike McCardle of Southeast Commercial Development in Winter Park made a plea for the school board to table the decision and reconsider Southeast's offer.
"I am here out of surprise that our offer is not on the agenda," McCardle said.
McCardle said Southeast Commercial Development bid to purchase the property at the same price with the same closing dates, but offered a smaller deposit.
"This makes a difference apples to apples, but it is money that's refundable," McCardle said.
Jane Dreger, director of capital projects, said the sale was never meant to be a bidding war.
"We made the decision to bring one offer to the board," Dreger said.
Mills said the decision must be made swiftly.
"The difference in earnest money is why I made decision to bring forward Blackrock," Mills said. "A sale of property of up to $4 million is necessary to meet our fund balance this year. We reiterated this to legislators."
In addition to the sale, the school board voted 4-0 Tuesday to declare 1.64 acres of property at Bayshore High School as surplus, which is a first step toward selling it.
The property is part of a parking lot remaining from the old Bayshore High School building, which was demolished in 1999 and later rebuilt. Bayshore High School now uses the property for athletic event parking and other activities.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.