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Tiffin board rejects bid, votes to raze old school

TIFFIN - The Board of Education yesterday rejected a developer's $10,000 bid to buy the aging Tiffin Middle School and voted instead to demolish the building this summer.

In a 5-0 vote, the board turned down the purchase offer from PFE Limited. The Tiffin development firm had planned to work with Tiffin University to renovate the 78-year-old building into campus housing.

This fall, the school district plans to move about 515 sixth and seventh-grade students from the middle school on West Market Street into the newly built Tiffin Junior High School on Martha Street.

The $10,000 offer to buy the middle school was the only one the district received at an auction Monday.

John Bolte, the school board's president, said he and his colleagues believe the district could do better by tearing the building down, clearing the 2.8-acre site, and selling the vacant land.

“We have two appraisals that have the property valued significantly higher than that,” he said.

The district's appraisals, when averaged, pegged the worth of the building and land at $350,000.

The cost to tear down the old building is estimated at more than $350,000, but the district's $15.2 million junior high construction project includes state funding to build the new school and tear down the middle school.

The state is paying 52 percent of the costs, with the district covering the rest.

Mr. Bolte said one of the district's appraisals pegged the value of a vacant middle school site at $335,000.

“It's easier to market to somebody once you have a clean piece of property,” he said. “Certainly, as the economy improves, we'll have economic interest. It's just in the schools' best interest to wait it out and be able to put more educational tools in the hands of the kids at the end of the day.”

Mr. Bolte said the district faced a Feb. 1 deadline to decide the building's fate or possibly lose the state's share of the demolition costs. “That's the biggest risk to the district,” he said. “If we don't use them, we lose them.”

Tiffin University planned to convert the school building into a complex with 35 to 40 one and two-bedroom apartments for students.

David Boyd, Tiffin University's vice president for business, said Tuesday the old school's auditorium and gymnasium could be used for theater productions and intramural athletics.

He and other university officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Bolte said the school board was sympathetic to the university's plans but felt obligated to get the best price possible for its property.

“Economics almost demand that they get the building free, because of the cost of developing it,” he said. “It was difficult to meet both the needs of the school district and the private enterprise.”

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