Urbana’s new school buildings raised an uncomfortable side effect: the need to dispose of the old buildings.
Urbana East, North, South and Local schools were all in various states of disrepair and the options for dealing with each came on a case-by-case basis.
“Leaving vacant buildings standing comes at a cost. Utilities must be maintained to a certain degree and the district would have needed to maintain insurance on the buildings if they remained, at expense to the general fund. In order to avoid states of disrepair, routine maintenance of roofs, exteriors and paved areas would also need to occur,” Treasurer Mandy Hildebrand said. “In the case of North and South, under ORC 3313.41, the board may sell property directly to any subdivision as defined in ORC 5705.01 without conducting a public auction. This was a collaborative effort and partnership among the Champaign Economic Partnership, the city of Urbana and the school district to consider avenues to rehab and redevelop these buildings.”
Developer Flaherty and Collins, based in Indiana, showed interest in renovating North and South into senior living facilities, provided grant funding could be secured to assist in the endeavor.
“It was my recommendation to the board that, if possible, the buildings be sold or transferred if there is a viable option for redevelopment. Further, if there is no opportunity presented for future use, then the board should demolish the unused buildings,” Superintendent Charles Thiel said. “There have been a number of times where school buildings have been sold and then left to deteriorate, and although no longer owned by the school, there would be the potential that the district would be blamed for the disrepair. We were fortunate that Flaherty and Collins proposed redevelopment of North and South.”
Plans seem to be on track for that redevelopment. The school transferred the buildings to the city in early 2018 for the modest cost of $1 each, so that the city and the Champaign Economic Partnership could handle the sale to Flaherty and Collins.
There is a price agreement in place of $354,000 between the district and the developer. The city and CEP will each deduct costs incurred, plus 3% for CEP. Then the rest of the money goes back to the school district.
Urbana East and Local
The other two buildings reportedly didn’t garner much interest, with the board deciding to demolish the structures due to time constraints on the state-provided funding for such ventures.
“The Classroom Facilities Assistance Program offered through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) does provide funding for the abatement and demolition of buildings which are no longer used. The state picks up their share of this cost at the same rate as the building program, which was 61% for us. If we do not abate and/or demolish a building, then OFCC claims back their-set aside budget and we get to keep our budgeted share,” Thiel said. “As we finished the construction program, OFCC began to close out the project and required a decision on those buildings. Since we had no individual or group bring forth a viable plan for future use, the decision was made to abate and demolish. We only had one person contact the CEP to tour Local for future use.”
Hildebrand expounded further on the district’s reasoning.
“In most cases, districts are required to offer property valued at over $10,000 for public auction. The district is required to offer the building for sale if it is planning to sell or dispose of the property. At present, the future use of the properties is undecided, and, as such, there is no requirement to engage in the auction process prior to demolition since we are not disposing, nor is there a plan to dispose of, the properties at this time,” she said. “The property where East was located is still being used for school use, as the marching band will continue to use the field area for practice. Furthermore, the track is being maintained for community use.”
Now that the buildings are demolished or sold, the board of education maintains its full discretion over the property.
“The board has the option of what to do with the vacant property. If it is determined there is no future planned use, then it may be disposed of using a bidding or auction process. It could also go through the transfer process like North and South if all parties agree,” Thiel said.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.