Former Byron school could become call center

An offer to purchase the former Byron school and its approximately 7 acres, with part of the building to be used initially as a telephone call center that would employ up to 100 persons, was approved 5-0 by the Town of Byron mayor and council during a late afternoon special meeting in the town complex on Friday, Jan. 27.

Byron school building.

The prospective buyer, who has sent a $10,000 deposit on the $90,000 acquisition, is identified in a letter of intent as Alex John Campos, of Duluth, Ga. He is 49 and affiliated with several companies including Able Holdings LLC, Advanced Diagnostics LLC, All American Payment Plan LLC and Affinity Member Services Inc., according to an Internet profile.

“He’s going to put a bunch of money into it (the former school),” said Councilman Gilbert Cordova, adding that, “This guy is a multimillionaire.”

After discussion on concerns and questions including contract details, utility bills prior to a sale, what items to remove from the structure and how to handle the location and ownership of the lighted digital marquee in front of the former school, Mayor Bret George stated, “Money seems to be no object (with Campos so) “let him work his magic. We have no way to go but up.”

The former school on Main Street contains some 95,000 square feet of space including an industrial-size kitchen, lockers, many rooms and other facilities including a gymnasium. The sale would not include what is known as the home ec cottage, as it is adjacent to the school property.

Under the approved motion to sell that which it owns to Campos, it is stipulated that the town would support him if he sought to purchase the auto shop at the former site from the school district. The latter has retained ownership of the shop as a storage building.

Around 30 months of discussion marked with controversy during town hall meetings preceded the Aug. 23, 2011, vote to take ownership of the former Byron school from Big Horn County School District One. Some town residents were strongly in favor of taking ownership, while others were dead set against it. When the vote came up, George and Councilman Dennis Cozens were against the motion.

Some felt that the facility could become a magnet to attract business and light industry tenants, while others contended that assuming ownership would result in the town being hung with an albatross. Last week the mayor said that a committee headed by Pam Hopkinson, in looking for tenants, came up with Campos, who wants to purchase the site.

Approximately 15 citizens, nearly all from Bryon, attended last week’s special meeting that lasted approximately 45 minutes. During a public hearing that lasted some 70 minutes the night before in the town complex, there was a crowd of approximately 27 persons, the mayor said Friday. During the hearing, the letter of intent and numerous details were discussed prior to bringing the matter to the council’s special meeting, he said.

Besides some positive comments by persons including Fritz Schneitzer and R.B. Smith, some concerns were aired by Joyce Zarate and Savannah Nash. The latter referred to the possibility of “a shady deal” while expressing fear that the deposit check might not clear. Zarate questioned “how all this (the potential sale) came about” and added her worry that “none of the town council has met the guy” and only the committee has been in contact with Campos.

“It bothers me,” she continued, “that you have not met him and have no telephone number for him. I’m so glad that we’re getting rid of it (the former school), but can the committee answer all his questions?”

Councilor Marie McCollam responded that the committee will take the town’s proposal to Campos “and then we’ll get with him.” Noted the mayor, “We also are going to be working with our attorney, Sandra Kitchen,” who attended the special meeting. George explained that there are various legal matters that will be met with a sales contract, indicating that there is no cause for alarm or concern.

“We all will meet with Sandi (the attorney) to review the contract,” he said. Kitchen was to begin work on preparing a contract and it is hoped that sale can be closed in a short time.

George stated emphatically that anyone who has personal items in the school needs to remove them at once. He ordered a moratorium on any other items, other than city property, being removed. “Mr. Campos is going to own some kitchen equipment,” the mayor said.

Regarding the marquee, purchased with funds from Homeland Security as an Amber Alert vehicle, the mayor said that the town will work with Campos on dealing with that matter. If he wants it removed, the town would comply, he noted, although it is hoped that an easement or other arrangement can be reached. George stated several times that at this time he does not want to make demands or deal with basically inconsequential details that could derail the sale.

By BOB RODRIGUEZ

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