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Published: Thursday, 8/9/2001

Maumee rejects Rolf Park asking price

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Maumee school board has offered to sell a portion of Rolf Park to the city of Maumee for $3.5 million, but city officials have rejected the offer.

Negotiations for the property have been under way for several months between city and school officials. The matter has been discussed in closed-door executive sessions by the school board and city council. Officials have been unwilling to discuss the issue publicly.

But the city council in mid-July rejected the school board's proposal of $3.5 million for 16.7 acres and a 25-year lease on 22.6 acres, according to documents obtained by The Blade. The popular park, which opened in the mid 1980s and includes soccer fields, ball diamonds, and tennis courts, is owned by the school, but the city leases the property.

In December, the city approached the schools with a proposal. At the time, the school board was initiating a fund-raising drive to build a new auditorium at Maumee High School.

The city offered to buy 30 acres of the park for $2 million. That money, city officials suggested, could be used by the board to help pay for the auditorium. The city's offer included a long-term lease on the remaining 10 acres, where the board could build a school.

Because the city currently leases the land, it cannot spend income tax or grant money for the park, said Councilman Thomas Shook, who heads the council's parks and recreation committee.

Mr. Shook, a teacher in the Maumee school district, has not been involved in the negotiations for the park property. But he said he is aware of the city's proposal.

“We thought as a city, we made a fair offer,” Mr. Shook said.

Charles Carr, a Maumee resident who is on the steering committee for the proposed auditorium, said the city's offer was “very generous.” Mr. Carr called the school's $3.5 million asking price “absolutely ridiculous.”

In a July 20 letter to school Superintendent Gregory Smith, Mayor Timothy Wagener said that based on the city's appraisal in September, 1999, the value of the 40-acre park was $880,000.

Mayor Wagener noted in his letter that the school board's counteroffer amounts to $209,580 an acre. Council's proposed purchase price is $66,667 per acre.

The mayor said he hopes negotiations continue. He said he believes that the city's offer is fair. Since the city rejected the board of education's offer in July, there has been no response from the school.

Superintendent Smith declined to discuss the issue.

School Board President Thomas Leonard said the $3.5 million proposal was “just a figure we came up with.'' He said the board had to “start the negotiating process somewhere.''

Mr. Leonard said the school board is in a “unique situation in a lot of respects.” First, the board is the owner of a prime piece of property in the city.

“It is probably the last big block of property in the city [and it] probably is worth more than the estimates,'' he said.

In addition, there is “no more land available for us to buy unless we go into a residential area and tear down houses,'' Mr. Leonard said.

The park property was intended to be used as a site for a school, he said. The board is interested in keeping 22 acres of the 40-acre site, where an elementary or possibly a middle school could be built.

School officials are considering building the community auditorium/performing arts complex at Maumee High School. But there is no time schedule for that project and there is no cost estimate yet, Mr. Leonard said. The board plans to use proceeds from the sale of the Rolf Park property for the auditorium, he said.

So far, Mr. Carr said, business leaders and others in the community have shown strong interest in the auditorium.

“The community wants a new auditorium for the community and for the students,” he said.



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