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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 456 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


An irrigation district may legally contract and pay total rental in advance for leasehold interest in a building to be constructed.

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                                                                 January 12, 1953

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 456

 Attention:  Mr. A. E. Hankins

Dear Sir: 

            This is in reply to your letter of December 30, 1952, in which is the following statement of facts:

             "Trentwood Irrigation District No. 3 of Spokane County has tentatively contemplated plans for the acquisition under a long-term leasehold interest calling for the immediate payment of approximately $3,000 to $4,000 consideration in advance for office space for carrying on the district's business.  The building which the district desires to acquire office space in is one not yet constructed, to be used as a Community Hall at Trentwood, the building to be constructed through cooperation of the local and national Grange and various community groups.  Title to the building will be in the Grange, the building to be situated within the Irrigation District."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            You inquire whether the directors of the irrigation district have authority to enter into the above described leasing agreement or contract for office space.

             It is the opinion of this office that your question should be answered in the affirmative.


             The building is to be constructed through cooperation of the local and national Grange and various community groups.  Title to the real property, which will be within the boundaries of the irrigation district, will vest in the Grange.  The payment by the district of from $3,000 to $4,000 prior to construction of the building for office space therein constitutes total consideration for a leasehold interest in the building as to the terms of which we are not advised.

             RCW 87.01.010 states the purposes for which an irrigation district, which is a municipal corporation, may be formed and authorizes, inter alia, the performance of all things to enable the district to exercise the powers granted to it.  RCW 87.01.210 and 87.01.220 in defining the powers and duties of the board of directors of an irrigation district grant power to the board to make necessary expenditures, within certain limitations, to carry on the administrative affairs of the district.  Clearly, a board of directors has authority to acquire‑-by lease or purchase‑-property which is essential to the accomplishment of the purposes for which the district was created, which includes, of course, the acquisition of office space for administering the business of the irrigation district.  The authority to acquire by purchase includes the lesser power to lease.

             The question as to the authority of the board of directors of an irrigation district to enter into a contract which will be binding upon successive boards is no longer an open one.  A well established exception to the general rule that a board may not enter into a contract extending beyond its own term without express statutory authorization therefor is to the effect that in the exercise of its business or proprietary power a board may enter into any reasonable contract.  70 A.L.R. 794; 149 A.L.R. 336.

             In our opinion of April 6, 194, for the King County prosecuting attorney we stated that the county commissioners had authority to enter into a fifteen year contract for the lease or purchase of a building desired for use by the county welfare department.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In other jurisdictions long term leases of courthouses have been sustained on the ground of necessity to acquire the property and make use of the facilities erected, and found that the term of twenty-five years was reasonable.  Heberer v. Chafee County, 88 Colo. 159, 293 Pac. 349.  See alsoBennett v. Petroleum Co., 87 Mont. 436, 288 Pac. 1018 (four years).

             March 5, 1948 we advised the prosecuting attorney for Yakima County that the board of directors of a school district had authority to enter into a lease of property for school purposes for a period of ten or twelve years.  We stated that the problem whether a lease may extend for a period beyond the term of the board entering into the leasing agreement is solved only on consideration of the necessity for and reasonableness of each contract, and that

            "* * * The Washington Supreme Court has said recently, speaking of a street lighting contract, that the mere fact that the contract extends beyond the term of office of the commissioners is not controlling, nor even material; that the term of contract is usually left to the sound judgment of the municipal authorities; that their judgment is prima facie valid; and that 'upon this principle, contracts covering periods of ten, twenty, thirty, and even fifty years have been sustained as valid.'  Washington Fruit and Produce Co. v. Yakima, 3 Wn. (2d) 152, 163, 100 P. (2d) 8, 103 P. (2d) 1106."

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General