REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education and the Prospect Town Council have reached common ground on a sale price for Community School, despite requests from Beacon Falls officials to allow the two towns to hash out a deal themselves.
The Town Council unanimously voted to meet the board’s asking price of $873,000 for the school at 12 Center St. in Prospect during a special meeting Monday, according to Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin.
The $873,000 price tag is $89,650 more than the $783,350 offer the Town Council submitted to the school board last week.
“While the Council believes that our initial offer was a fair one, the difference was viewed as reasonable, and rather than incurring any additional costs, or causing any friction between the parties, our revised bid of $873,000 has been submitted,” Galvin said.
The ball is now back in the school board’s court. The board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, must officially accept the offer of $873,000 before the process can move forward. The board’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 28.
Officials from Beacon Falls, however, want the opportunity to negotiate the sale price with Prospect.
Beacon Falls First Selectman Chris Bielik as well as Board of Finance members Joe Rodorigo and Brian Ploss addressed the school board at its Oct. 14 meeting. All three urged the board not to take any action on the original offer from Prospect, and instead refer the matter to the two towns to discuss and come to an agreement.
“We’re two towns in a region that are at crossed purposes on this particular issue,” Bielik told the board.
Bielik said Prospect wants the price to be as low as possible, while Beacon Falls wants a fair market value price that maximizes its returns.
If the school board accepts the $873,000 offer, the voters in Region 16 will have the final say. The sale will have to be approved by Beacon Falls and Prospect voters at a regional meeting or referendum. Prospect voters will also have to give their blessing to buying the property. The money from the sale of the school will go back to the two towns.
Community School was closed at the end of the 2014-15 school year. Prospect officials envision using the building for many purposes, including recreational activities, for civic organizations and possibly an emergency shelter.
According to property records, the school sits on 3.26 acres of land and has a gross living area (GLA) of 31,185 square feet. The property card lists the combined appraisal of the land and the building at nearly $4.25 million, based on the estimated market value of real property at the time of the 2011 revaluation. Independent appraisals received this year by both towns and the school board fell well short of that figure. Region 16’s appraisal came in at $1,225,000, while Prospect got an appraisal of $1,250,000. Beacon Falls’ appraisal was $1,510,000.
The school board hasn’t put the property on the open market since Prospect showed interest in it, and has been awaiting an offer from the town. The first offer came last week.
According to a memorandum detailing the town’s first offer, the Town Council arrived at its original bid of $783,350 by taking the average of the three appraisals, which comes to roughly $1,328,333, and subtracting the estimated cost of what was deemed to be immediate repairs needed to the building, which came to $545,000.
According to the memorandum, the Town Council hired Resource Monitoring Solutions to inspect the building and provide cost estimates for immediate repairs, which broke down to $225,000 to fix the roof, $150,000 to repair the masonry brick siding, $120,000 for exterior repairs and finishes, and $50,000 for repairs to the fire alarm system.
Resource Monitoring Solutions also recommended $345,000 worth of additional repairs, including $260,000 for the HVAC system. However, according to the memorandum, the Town Council deemed these repairs to be “upgrades” and didn’t factor them into its offer.
The school board discussed the town’s offer for more than an hour in executive session Oct. 14. Following the executive session, the board voted unanimously to set the sale price at $873,000, thus rejecting the Town Council’s original offer.
School board Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella said the board took the value of the property and the immediate repairs needed under consideration. She said the roof will need to be fixed whether the board sells or holds on to the school.
Cretella said all eight members of the board put their own price on the property. In what she described as the “fairest way possible,” Cretella said the board took the average of each member’s price to reach $873,000.
The board’s action didn’t sit well with some Beacon Falls officials.
Bielik said, in a subsequent interview, that the consensus among Beacon Falls selectmen and finance board members is Prospect’s original offer and the price set by the school board are surprisingly low.
Bielik said the town is checking with its attorney whether the process being used to sell the school is the proper procedure and what options are available for the town to take in the matter.