Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield says the city is committed to putting the former Maurice Poss Homes public housing site into the hands of the county school system.
The city may take a loss on the transaction, but Littlefield said the city can't let the property go without something in return.
In June, the city moved to swap its Dogwood Manor apartments and four acres off Shallowford Road with the Chattanooga Housing Authority for the Poss Homes site. That deal still must be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Poss and Dogwood properties, along with the current East Brainerd Elementary, originally were part of a proposed three-way land swap among the city, CHA and the school system. But the Chattanooga City Council settled for the two-way swap with CHA.
The school board never took up the issue, but on Thursday it did agree to start marketing the current East Brainerd Elementary, which is expected to be replaced with a new school in 2014.
Littlefield attended that meeting, he said, to assure school board members and school officials that he still intends for the Poss Homes site to be used eventually for a new football stadium and track at Howard School, as originally was planned in the three-way land swap.
"We're not about to do anything else with the Poss Homes site," Littlefield said. "We will be working with them to make it part of Howard School."
The mayor said the city is upside down on the deal.
"We've got about two-and-a-half million dollars that we're out in the process," he said. "We need to swap or be compensated because we don't have two-and-a-half million just lying around."
Dogwood has been appraised at $1.7 million, and city officials said in June the city owes $2.4 million on it from upgrades made about a decade ago. In the original three-way swap proposal, Poss Homes was valued at $1.87 million. Plans called for the city to receive a $1.4 million portion of the $2.3 million East Brainerd school site.
"We will very likely lose several hundreds of thousands of dollars. But I don't think it's reasonable for the city to lose more than $2 million," Littlefield said.
School board Chairman Mike Evatt said he doesn't want to trade the valuable East Brainerd property, but he wants to sell it. And while the school system still wants the Poss Homes site for Howard, he said getting the County Commission to fund the purchase seems unlikely at this time. The commission is holding up plans to hire an architect for the new East Brainerd school.
"It would have to be a decision by the board to take to the commission if we wanted to purchase that property," Evatt said. "With the relationship right now, it would be very hard to get something like that even on the table for discussion."