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Published: Wednesday, 12/3/2008

Former Otsego middle school site headed for auction block


TONTOGANY - The Otsego Local Schools board plans to auction the former Grand Rapids Middle School property on Monday.

The two-acre parcel, at Bridge and Second streets, was appraised at $140,000 in March of last year, according to Otsego Superintendent Jim Garber.

"But that price doesn't hold any longer, that's for sure," he added.

The district's school board set a minimum bid of $50,000, and reserves the right to reject all bids, Mr. Garber said.

The middle school was demolished over the summer at a cost of $88,000.

The old high school in Tontogany became the new middle school, and is now called the junior high, housing grades seven and eight. It adjoins the district's new high school.

George Limes, a Grand Rapids Township trustee, said his community planned to bid on the property in conjunction with the village of Grand Rapids.

If the bid is successful, the township would locate a fire station there, he said, and the village would use it for a park or green space.

The township provides fire protection for the village too.

Grand Rapids village administrator Chad Hoffman declined to confirm there would be a joint village-township bid.

"I'll be at the auction. That's all I can say," he said.

But George Foos, another township trustee, said the village and the township had agreed to a joint bid despite a history of friction between the trustees and the administrator.

"We wanted to purchase half the property, but the school district is selling it in one piece," Mr. Foos explained. "We reached an agreement with Chad. We had our attorneys get together, and we each agreed to purchase half the property."

Mr. Garber said the Grand Rapids Historical Society also would be bidding, but Steve Kryder, the society's president, said no decision had been made.

Mr. Limes and Mr. Foos said they had heard that several contractors were interested in buying the property.

"If the township gets the property, it's a good deal because it's a good central spot for a fire station," said Mr. Foos. "If a contractor got it and put up six or eight homes, the school district would do better because we don't pay taxes."

He added, "On the one hand, I kind of hope a contractor gets it, but on the other hand, I think it would be a nice place for a fire station."

Proceeds from any sale will go into the school district's general fund. The strapped district has cut $900,000 from its operating budget this year, and projects an $800,000 deficit in 2011. Another $500,000 in cuts is planned for next year.

"Heaven knows, we'll find a use for the money," Mr. Garber said.

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