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Published: Wednesday, 3/16/2005

Elmwood, Cygnet sign land deal

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

JERRY CITY, Ohio - Elmwood Local Schools and the village of Cygnet have signed a truce in their disagreement over the sale of the former Elmwood Middle School property in Cygnet.

The school board agreed Monday night to sell 3.45 acres as planned for $13,782 with the restriction that Cygnet would not sell the land without the school board's permission for the next 10 years.

The board had wanted to restrict the land's sale for 50 years, but that clause was omitted inadvertently from the purchase agreement signed in August.

After the board rescinded the deal in December, Cygnet refused to agree to the 50-year restriction and sued the school board March 3 in Wood County Common Pleas Court.

Cygnet Councilman Venita Simon said yesterday that council decided to accept a 10-year restriction on the land, which is adjacent to its drinking-water well field, "to get it over with and shut everybody up."

"We don't plan on selling the land because we have these water wells and we can't do anything with this land anyway. The EPA won't let us," she said.

While Cygnet's lawsuit is expected to be dismissed later this week, Elmwood Superintendent Dave Rossman said he's not sure what the agreement with Cygnet will mean for Bloomdale, Wayne, and Portage Township, which purchased school property in deals that included the 50-year sales clause.

"There probably will be renewed discussions about that topic," Mr. Rossman said. "I'm sure it will get worked out. I'm sure the board will try to do the best thing for the communities and the schools."

Wayne Clerk-Treasurer Janet Elder said the 10-year restriction for Cygnet does raise questions. "Frankly, we thought a contract was a contract, and we signed it," Ms. Elder said. "If they want to come back to be fair about it, it would be great."

School officials said fairness was the reason they first offered to donate 2.25 acres to each of the villages and Portage Township and give them the option to buy additional land for $4,000 per acre.

In Cygnet, the village wanted slightly more than half of the 10-acre middle school property, and the remaining 4.3 acres were divided into 11 building lots and sold at public auction for $96,000.

Mr. Rossman said the board insisted on the 50-year restriction because it did not want to see Cygnet turn around and resell the property for a profit since the land belonged to the entire school district.

"That would look bad as far as the school district being a steward of everyone's property, not just the village of Cygnet," he said.

Elmwood's four old schools were razed after the southern Wood County school district built a $28 million prekindergarten-through-high school campus next to the former Elmwood High School on Jerry City Road.

Mr. Rossman, who worked his final day yesterday as Elmwood superintendent, said he was "very regretful" over the dispute with Cygnet. He took responsibility, saying the omission of the 50-year restriction in the original contract was his error.

On Monday, the school board named Elmwood Middle School Principal Larry Coffelt interim superintendent. He will be paid $100 a day in addition to his principal's salary of $65,887 a year.

Mr. Rossman, who starts today as superintendent of Arlington Local Schools south of Findlay, said the Elmwood board hopes to hire a new superintendent by June 30 when Mr. Coffelt is scheduled to retire.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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