An 11th hour offer may spare the Criglersville Elementary School from demolition.
The school was on last week’s board of supervisors’ agenda for the awarding of a contract for demolition. Demolishing the school was the second option chosen by the Criglersville School Repurposing Committee. The committee, which spent several months analyzing the property to determine its future, recommended listing the property for sale for six months. If not sold, the committee recommended demolition.
“The committee worked on this a good long while,” county administrator Jack Hobbs said. “They [recommended] we put it up for sale and if no offers, demolish it.”
Hobbs said with no offers to purchase the building put forth, save a zero dollar offer by one citizen, the county moved forward with hiring a consultant to develop specifications and lead a procurement process for a demolition contractor. Bids were opened Oct. 16 with the lowest bidder of five, Demolition Services, Inc., recommended as the winning bid. Bids included demolishing both the school building and the adjacent former voting house and ranged from $506,200 to $199,932. The consultant recommended adding a 35 percent contingency to cover any issues that could arise with demolishing an older building, bringing the cost up to $269,908. The county budget currently has $350,000 earmarked for the demolition of the school.
However, it may not be needed.
“I absolutely hate wasting all those people’s time who worked on the committees, but I’m having a problem spending $200,000 to remove a building that’s only a liability,” board of supervisors chairman Clay Jackson said. “I know we have lots of costs coming up and spending this money [gives me heartburn.]”
Jackson said prior to the meeting, he had taken a phone call from someone who wants to create a business plan and possibly purchase the building. Jackson said the caller has a history having completed similar projects and would be able to provide references. He suggested waiting until the board’s next meeting on Nov. 12 to make a decision.
Hobbs said the county will need to obtain an extension from Demolition Services, Inc. since the bid will expire prior to the board making any decision.
Meanwhile, supervisor Jonathon Weakley said a decision on the building continues to prove elusive.
“Three times [the county] has had it on the market,” he said. “We get close to the goal line.”
He said perhaps the issue as to the future of the building be put to a voter referendum.
During public comment, county resident and supervisor elect Carty Yowell put in one last plea to suspend demolition. He said the Criglersville area has seen a resurgence in the past few years and noted that the school property has value with contact to the river. He said he’d like the county to continue to search for a buyer through 2020 and said the $200,000 for demolition could be used for other things.
County resident Albert Yowell said the word from some of those in the Etlan area is that supervisors who vote in favor of demolishing the school won’t be reelected. He said the building is very sturdy and isn’t costing the county anything. Like Yowell, he suggested letting the building sit and be advertised for sale.
On the flip side, planning commissioner Mike Fisher said he was present at the meeting when the school board voted to return the building to the county. He also served on the repurposing committee that voted to get rid of it. He noted that the building has lead paint and asbestos and that by state regulations, he doesn’t think the county can just “wash its hands of it.”
“The thing has been sitting for ever and ever more,” Fisher said. “A solution needs to be done.”
In addition to opting to delay a decision regarding demolition, supervisors also chose to delay the approval of requests made by citizens for items from the building. Citizens were able to tour the building last month and make requests for items in writing. Items requested include a handrail, coat hooks, mirrors and a pencil sharpener. Supervisors are expected to approve or deny the requests during the Nov. 12 meeting.