Tonawanda News

October 10, 2012

Central School sale debated

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Superintendent Whitney Vantine attended his last board meeting Tuesday night before his retirement next week. 

During his presentation, he recommended the board determine Central School’s future — a decision he sees as important on the district’s lengthy to-do list. 

“My suggestion is to consider taking action at the next meeting Oct. 23,” Vantine said.  

He invited realtor Ed Woods to the meeting to answer questions about the possible sale of the building and what services he would provide. Woods works for Realty USA, the same company that represented the board during the sale of Highland Elementary — a fact that worried some board members, as Highland Elementary still sits vacant after its sale to S. Spoth, LLC last spring. 

“Would you ask a realtor to sell your house if he failed the last time?” Board member Sharon Stuart asked Vantine. 

Vantine said he is recommending Woods as a result of the comfort of use with Realty USA during the sale of Highland.

“They successfully got it sold at auction and off the school board,” Vantine said. 

But board members said they would like to review other possible realtors to sell the facility before deciding on Realty USA. 

Woods, however, did respond to Stuart’s concerns and said the initial list price for Highland of $440,000 was likely too high, and may have caused the property to remain on the market for a longer period of time — thereby hurting its chances for a successful sale.

“The area around Central is a very nice neighborhood,” he said. “It may lend itself to residential use in an area that already has established prices.”

Woods said he would market primarily to developers via direct mail and the Internet. Although non-for-profits may elect to use the building, they generally work with a developer who purchases the property. 

People, Inc., is still working on developing Highland into a housing facility, but their grant application for funding was denied by the federal government about three months ago. 

The organization is now pursuing other funding opportunities. 

The owners of the property, S. Spoth LLC, have put the for sale sign back on the school’s lawn until People, Inc., obtains funding. 

“Not-for-profits are having budget constraints now,” Woods said. 

If a company took residence in either school, the property could go back on city tax rolls and provide much needed revenue for the city and school district.

Central School still has desks, computers and a few organizations in the building — including the district’s archives and a Teacher Center. 

Director of Facilities Paul Maziarz said he is working on moving the materials and groups out of the building by Jan. 2. 

The building hasn’t been a full-time educational facility for more than 10 years.  

Vantine also gave his farewell at Tuesday’s meeting before his last day Oct. 17. 

He spoke to his 22 years as a superintendent and 35 in public education.

“I have very, very fond memories,” he said. “I simply say goodbye.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting: 

• The board appointed two advisors for Rachel’s Challenge, an anti-violence club inspired by the Columbine attacks. At the last meeting, board members voiced their worries that advisors had not been found yet.

• The board will review a policy that prohibits the Parent Teacher Student Association from putting a dollar amount on fliers sent home to families for fundraising policies. Board member Lynn Casal brought up the issue at the meeting, arguing all money raised goes back into schools and the current policy is hurting the organization’s efforts. 

• The board met in executive session with the Tonawanda City School District Civil Service Employees Independent Association in regards to the union’s complaint filed this summer. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.