Denise Freitag Burdette/The Journal-Press: The fate of the old North Dearborn Elementary School building located on North Dearborn Road was discussed during the Aug. 9 Sunman-Dearborn school board meeting.
‘Paddles’ won’t be up for school building auction
The resolution was ready; all it needed was a price to ask at auction.
But then the Sunman-Dearborn School Corporation decided to change plans.
The school board Thursday, Aug. 9, decided to obtain more estimates on how much it would cost to demolish the Annex Building at Sawdon Ridge and North
Dearborn roads, or the former North Dearborn School building. It has been unused for several years.
An auction for the contents, including scoreboards that date to the 1950s, is still scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at the school.
A resolution was introduced to put the building up for auction; all the board needed to do was decide on a price they wanted. But board member Jamie Graf said he didn’t like the idea of selling it.
“I feel like if we auction to the highest bidder, whether that’s $25,000 or $250,000, we’re essentially opening up the building to purchase by someone to use it in whatever form they want,” said Graf.
“If you were to place that school in the county anywhere, even where it’s at, unless it’s a school, that facility doesn’t fit the neighboring surroundings.”
He said the seller could do what they want with the property, with the corporation having no say.
“If it is sold to the wrong person, five years from now, 10 years, it may fall apart it may look worse, they may not mow the grass,” he said.
The building sits on about six acres of land. The football field that is next to the property is not included in the auction. The corporation has a 20-year lease with the Sunman Dearborn Youth Athletic Association, until 2032, according to district lawyer Frank Kramer, for the association to use football and baseball fields at the Annex Building.
A request for proposal was sent out to sell the building earlier this year but the corporation received no offers.
Graf said he wants to have the building torn down and then decide whether to sell the property or keep it. An estimate gathered by Superintendent Andrew Jackson put the cost of tearing it down at about $550,000.
“I think it is our responsibility to deal with it and the way to deal with it is to demo it,” Graf said.
Board member Glen Scholl said he wants to sell it, partly because of the price tag of tearing it down.
“My concern is being fiscally responsible with $550,000 to demo it,” Scholl said. “I think that being through financial hardship times in the corporation (in the past), that really rings out to me. Right now we are in the black … but $550,000 to demo it is a lot of money.”
But Graf said he has discussed the project with others and was told the cost to tear it down could be as much as half, or less, than the $550,000 estimate.
“I feel like we went down this path of we didn’t know what to do with it, we tried to sell it, nobody wanted to buy it, we’re just kind of kicking it down the road,” Graf said.
“I think at the end of the day if we try to put a bigger reserve on the thing nobody is going to buy it anyway and we are going to miss the warm weather months to tear it down over the next three months, and we’ll still be looking at a year from now.”
Board president Mike Norman said no one can know what the property will look like in five years if it is sold. It would be up the county’s planning and zoning rules to determine what is on the property.
Board member Sarah Hylton said she wanted to make sure the property would not be needed. Jackson said the property probably would not be needed, and the cost of renovating the building to make it usable would be high.
Jackson also said a demographic study will be conducted after the student count in September and more accurate enrollment forecast would be known then.
“Currently, I would be surprised if we ever needed that building,” he said “If we needed that building the amount of money we would need to put into it to get it ready would be very expensive.”
He added there is room in North Dearborn and Sunman schools to add classrooms if needed.
Board member Brandon Burress said the corporation has a responsibility to make sure the property fits into the neighborhood.
“… As a school corporation that is funded by taxpayers we have a responsibility to oversee it, we don’t just liquidate and say whatever happens happens to it,” Burress said. “I don’t know how we control that. I think we have a lot of responsibility to try to figure out what fits best with the property.”
Jackson will work to get more estimates on the cost of demolition by the next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 13. And board president Norman wants the board to be ready to decide then.
“I want to put this to bed next month,” he told the board. “(We have to) decide to sell it or tear it down.”