Last week, a notice, issued by Colo-Nesco School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Gray, explained why the gates to the Zearing playground were locked and why there was a ‘for sale’ sign on the property.


Gray let his district patrons know that the property had been purchased away from the district by another party.


The Colo-Nesco school district bought the parcel of land in June 2013 for $12,000, according to a statement from Gray.


In his statement last Thursday, Gray said the district recently learned there was $248 in unpaid taxes on the property at the time, and that without the district’s knowledge, the property was sold on a quit claim deed. The buyer? Mr. Mague Holdings of Ames, according to records on the property site, Beacon.


In his statement, Gray said the company now holding the deed to the property locked the playground, and the price they wanted to get the property back for the school was $50,000.


Since the initial story printed, much outrage took place in the Zearing community and surrounding area, and on social media. So, the district worked quickly to resolve the matter.


On Monday, Gray notified the media that the issue regarding the Zearing playground had been resolved.


His released statement read: “The parties have reached a final settlement on terms that are mutually agreeable to both. Title to the playground will be restored to the District as part of the settlement. The District expects to reopen the playground as soon as title can be transferred back to the District. The District respects the decision by the tax deed holder to lock up the playground in the meantime due to liability and insurance concerns. Both the District and the tax deed holder are pleased that title to the playground will be returned to the District and that the playground will be reopened; and both the District and the tax deed holder are grateful to the public at large for their patience and understanding as the parties continue to work through this matter.


Gray said the school district settled with the property owner for $2,500 to have the property returned to the district. It worked on the settlement with David R. Elkin of Des Moines.


Said Gray, “The seller was asking $50,000. The district originally bought the property for $12,000 back in 2013 and has since added playground equipment. The assessed value (of the property) is $5,600… One must also factor in the cost to rebuild a new playground if a settlement was not reached. In light of all these factors, $2,500 felt like a fair price to return this playground to the children of the Colo-Nesco School District.”


Gray, who has just completed his first year with the Colo-Nesco School District in a shared superintendency agreement with Nevada Schools, said he was not part of the school district in 2013-14 when the property sale transaction transpired. “It appears to me that when the district purchased the property from Alan and Marsha Morris in 2013, the Morrises deducted the back taxes from their asking price, so the district could pay the taxes at that time.”


Gray said that, per county records, the district had been notified of the $248 due. “I do not know why or how that tax bill wasn’t paid by the district,” Gray said.


But he is pleased that the matter has been resolved. “I’m appreciative of the patience of our patrons as we’ve worked through this unfortunate situation,” he said.