Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to greenlight a draft scope of services for a financial consultant who will work with staff on the sale or ground lease of Palm School in downtown Austin at a Feb. 4 meeting.
In doing so, commissioners exempted the consulting contract from going through the county’s purchasing office, as would normally be the case.
“This is an allowed exemption,” said Christy Moffett, director of economic and strategic planning. “And the reason for this exemption request would be so that we could move at the speed with which y’all [the commissioners] have asked us to.”
Palm School was established in 1892 and housed an elementary school that served predominantly Latino students for over 130 years.
It is owned by the county, and commissioners have stressed that there are not funds to convert the site into a museum or culture center, which community members have urged them to do.
In October, commissioners approved a set of restrictive covenants that will govern future use of the site, regardless of who ultimately owns the property.
“[Palm School] has a lot of meaning to a lot of different people, not to mention the history that it played in the creation of the city of Austin,” Commissioner Margaret Gomez said at the Feb. 4 meeting.
With the draft approved, the county purchasing office will negotiate the final contract to bring back to the Commissioners Court for approval.
Currently, the county has set aside $50,000 for such a consultant.
According to a brief prepared for commissioners, county staff believe that additional funds will be needed and will submit a request once negotiations with the chosen consulting firm are completed.
The consultant will help county staff prepare for the bidding process in which they will choose a buyer or long-term lessee, per the draft scope of services.
“The County has two main objectives for sale or long-term ground lease: development that preserves the historic nature of Palm School and respects the relationship of Palm School to the surrounding area, including Palm Park and financial benefit to the County,” per the draft.