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Published: Wednesday, 10/20/2004

Luna Pier: Clause holds up school's sale to city


LUNA PIER - This month marks a year since the city first inquired about reacquiring the former Luna Pier Elementary School to use as a city hall.

But a deal that would transfer the building from Mason Consolidated Schools to the city's ownership is being hung up by questions of what will happen to the building if the city decides one day to move again.

"There's a 'reverter' clause in [the school's] counter offer to us, and it's a potential deal breaker," explained city administrator Tom Treece. He and other city representatives were hoping to meet with school officials within a few weeks to see if they can avoid a potential impasse.

The clause would prohibit the city from selling the former elementary school down the road to an outside party. Before such a sale would take place, the building would revert to the district.

The Mason Board of Education closed Luna Pier Elementary about 18 months ago as a way to help cut expenses and aid the district in implementing its long-term educational plan. At the time, dozens of Luna Pier residents, many of whom attended the school as children, objected to the shuttering.

But while there were initially hard feelings about the closure, city officials saw an opportunity to turn what would be a disastrous situation into a benefit by transforming the school into a city hall and library.

They asked the school board first to "return" the school to the city, because it had contributed the building decades ago when Mason was first consolidated. When that failed, the city offered the district $180,000, a figure both sides said has been largely settled upon.

Mr. Treece continues to insist that the elementary school would make a "perfect" city hall for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that relatively little would have to be remodeled to make it work.

Mason Superintendent Marlene Mills said she and representatives from the board of education are eager to meet with city representatives to see if they can find some way to address both sides' concerns. She said the clause was a way to look out for the best interests of the district in the long term.

"If they're no longer going to use the building as a municipal building, then we'd like to have it back," instead of seeing it sold to a potential third party, Mrs. Mills said.

Mr. Treece said the city doesn't want to do anything that would ultimately hurt the local school district, but city officials have to look out for Luna Pier's interests, too.

"I'm sure it's simply Mason trying to protect themselves from a competing school, like a charter school, and we're certainly never going to let that happen. Good grief! We're never going to let that happen! It's our school system, too," Mr. Treece said.

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