Tonawanda News

September 26, 2013

Central School plans remain unclear

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Tonawanda City School District Superintendent James Newton said Wednesday the proposed buyer of Central School, Hunt and Associates, has not discussed its plans for the building.

The board approved the sale of the building, located at 80 Clinton St., for $165,000 at its regular board meeting Tuesday. The sale is subject to a voter referendum.

“We are going to try to work with the city to see if we can have it on Election Day in November,” Newton said. “If not, we will have to have a new date for the referendum.”

The contract with the buyer includes a free, three-year rental period for the district in the building’s climate-controlled storage room. Members of the board had previously voiced their concern about needing to find another similar room for the files that are stored there.

The approval comes after a previous sale fell through. In May, the board approved selling the building to David Capretto, of Capretto Forbes Homes, for $220,000. Under that contract, the district would have paid Capretto $3,500 annually to rent the storage space.

Residents then approved the sale in 722-311 vote.

Capretto, who was planning to turn the school into apartments, withdrew the offer in July.

“He was hoping to obtain historical credits that would have helped with the cost of the project,” district business manager Stephen Perry said at the time. “But state inspectors said too many changes had been made to the building and they denied the assistance.”

The school is costing the district approximately $1,000 a year to maintain, school district officials said in May. Although the board has been eager to get the building off its hands and bring in extra revenue from a sale and returning the building to the tax rolls, some city residents were fighting to turn the structure into a community center.

“The city is the only one that doesn’t have a community building in the area, and I think that’s a crime, “Democratic Committee Chairwoman Gayle Syposs said.

The city appointed a committee to review the possibility of a center, but according to the board, the city council twice said it wasn’t interested in the property.

In May, members said they couldn’t reject a purchase offer without a concrete proposal from the city, which hasn’t been made.

The board began discussing the sale of the building in October, and listed the school at the beginning of January for $325,000. The 34,720-square-foot building hasn’t been used as a full-time educational facility for more than 10 years.

Last spring, the district sold another former school, Highland Elementary, to S. Spoth, LLC in an auction for substantially less than its original listing price of $440,000. People Inc. planned to use the building for apartments, but the plans have yet to be approved and finalized, and the large school still sits vacant.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.