EDITORIAL: Old junior high school should be sold as soon as possible

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The Tell City-Troy Township School Board hopes to hear options this month on how to dispose of the vacant former junior high school, and we hope this will lead to its quickly changing hands.

Options presented at last month’s school board meeting included listing the building with local real-estate companies or conducting an auction. We vote for the latter, as it will likely lead to quicker disposal of the building.

Technically the building is owned by the Tell City-Troy Township Building Corp., a separate legal entity from the school district. But Tell City-Troy Township Superintendent Lynn Blinzinger said the building still costs the school district between $3,000 and $4,000 each month for utilities, insurance and other costs.

The building, which had been Hoosier Heights Elementary, was remodeled extensively in 1980 to become Tell City Junior High for grades 6-8. It served the school corporation well in that role for 30 years until declining enrollments led to the decision to close it before the 2010-11 school year and move the seventh and eighth grades to Tell City High School and the sixth grade to William Tell Elementary.

There may not be a lot of interest in such a large building, but school board member Larry Bryant said at last month’s meeting he “was approached not long ago by someone asking about (the school) and our plans for it.”

There is no debt on the building. It was recently appraised, though the amount of the appraisal has not been revealed to the public. There is a general requirement that surplus school buildings in Indiana must be sold for at least 90 percent of their appraised value, but that requirement may not apply to the junior high since it is not actually owned by the school corporation.

That requirement can be removed anyway if no bid for that amount is received at a first auction. That’s what happened when Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary and Booth Tarkington Elementary in Indianapolis were sold last year. No bids were received at 90 percent of appraised value at their first auction May 26, so another auction was scheduled June 11 with the 90 percent requirement removed and the company conducting the auction was told to take the best bid received to the school board for approval.

All sales under such conditions are subject to approval of the school board, so that is the route we recommend the Tell City-Troy Township School Board taking now with the former junior high. We also recommend that the board accept any halfway reasonable bid even if it is below 90 percent of the appraised value. Getting something for a building that is sitting idle is better than continuing to pay $36,000 to $48,000 a year for its upkeep.

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