It's going to take a few more days and a lot more discussion before Luna Pier is able to convert the 1920s-era brick schoolhouse into its new municipal building.
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LUNA PIER - More than nine months have passed since Luna Pier first offered to buy the 1920s-era elementary school building that bore its name.
Last week, the city got an answer in the form of a counterproposal from Mason Consolidated Schools, but it's going to take a few more days and a lot more discussion before Luna Pier is able to convert the brick schoolhouse into its new municipal building.
"They gave us a price, and we've pretty much accepted that price," Luna Pier City Manager Tom Treece said. "There's just some conditional items that we need to deal with."
The Mason school board opted to close Luna Pier Elementary more than a year ago as a way to help cut expenses and aid the district in implementing its long-term educational plan. The decision was unpopular at the time with Luna Pier residents, most of whom had attended the school as a child or sent their own children through its neighborhood doors.
City officials also didn't want to see what is arguably the cultural cornerstone of their community degenerate into a dark and crumbling empty hulk in the middle of their town. They sent a letter last fall to the district asking to retake possession of the school that the city had given decades ago when Mason was first consolidated, or, short of that, to be able to purchase the building outright.
"Our plan is to turn it into a municipal building and library. If we can incorporate our library into it, we could quadruple [the library's] floor space and give them more parking than they should ever need," Mr. Treece said.
Mr. Treece said the elementary school would make a fantastic city hall for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that relatively little would have to be remodeled to make it work.
"The one great thing about it is that it's pretty much set up already. The building's all wired for everything we would need," the city administrator said.
The elementary also evokes a strong emotional response among city residents.
"Historically, its an important part of our community," Mr. Treece said. "Most all of our citizens went to school there, so being able to incorporate that back into our local government would have a sentimental flair to it."
The value of the building was estimated at about $180,000. The details of the offers back and forth were unavailable, but officials said it is likely under $200,000. Mr. Treece said one of the remaining details yet to be worked out is a financing arrangement that could keep the city from paying interest on the purchase.
Mason Consolidated Superintendent Marlene Mills said she remains confident that the school district and city can come to an agreement.
"I think we just need to strike a deal that we're both happy with. I don't think we're that far apart," Mrs. Mills said.
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