Delaware News

Big Walnut hopes dilapidated building draws bids

Former district administration building to be auctioned April 3


The Big Walnut Local School District's former central administration building in Galena will be auctioned off April 3, the school board decided at its meeting Monday, Feb. 11.

The decrepit, two-story, mostly cinder-block building sits in the downtown area, so that could generate some interest in it, district Superintendent Steve Mazzi said.

A minimum bid of $50,000 has been set for the auction, which will begin at 6 p.m. April 3 at the building site, 70 N. Walnut St.

"Hopefully, (the price) will go up from there," he said.

No appraisal has been completed of the building, which has mold, leaks, crumbling mortar and other maintenance issues and will be sold "as-is."

"School buildings are notoriously difficult to value," said school board member Andrew Wecker, a lawyer who specializes in real estate.

The building closed last summer and about a dozen administrative staff members, including Mazzi, moved to offices in the district's newly opened intermediate school in Sunbury.

Utility and maintenance costs to keep the Galena building open were running about $89,000 a year.

While there were several conversations with Galena village officials about the building, nothing concrete developed, leading district officials to place it on the auction block, Mazzi said.

Also at the Feb. 11 meeting, district leaders discussed the possibility of changing school start and end times next school year.

Currently, students at the high school and middle school have class from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Those in the elementary schools have class from 8:35 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., while intermediate school students go to class from 9:10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Gary Barber explained that all the start and end times are dictated by the bus schedule, because the district covers 105 square miles and many of the same buses are used for transportation to and from the various schools.

The district may place the high school, middle school and intermediate school on the same bell times.

Elementary schools would remain on a different bell time.

A two-tier system such as that "would give us greater flexibility in our start and end times," Barber said. "Our goal is a maximum 45-minute bus ride."

Some students in the farthest reaches of the district now spend more than an hour in buses to and from school.

If the board makes a decision, possibly at its March 11 meeting, there would be an additional cost in going to a two-tier system, because more buses and drivers would be needed for the 3,100-student district, leaders said.

If the board decides to make this change, at least two more buses -- at $75,000 each -- and two drivers would be needed, officials said.

Yearly operational costs, including fuel and driver salaries, would be about $100,000, Barber said.

Going to just one bell time for all schools would require buying 20 more buses at a cost of $1.5 million, with operational costs of about $1 million annually, district leaders said.

"I personally like the two-tier system," board member Pamula Lillie said. "We have to look at what's best for our kids first and for our employees."