Janesville School District HQ may be for sale

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
— The Janesville School District might sell its administrative offices to the city of Janesville in the coming year, although the city is still considering its options.

The Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St., is one of two or three sites the city is considering to build a fire station, a school board committee was told Tuesday.

City officials have been looking for at least two years for a site to build a station that would replace Fire Station No. 1 at 330 Milton Ave.

The committee voted to recommend to the full board that the district go ahead with an appraisal of the property—a necessary step if the property is to be sold.

An appraisal would probably cost less than $2,000, said Keith Pennington, the district’s chief financial officer.

Pennington said the appraisal would help the district decide whether it is even worthwhile moving the ESC, given the costs of moving and renovation at another site.

The ESC also houses the district’s information-technology department, computer servers and maintenance shops.

Pennington said the city showed interest in the purchase two years ago but that idea was put on the back burner. The city revived the issue with school officials last month.

City Manager Eric Levitt told the Gazette earlier this week that he’d like to choose a site by the end of this year and break ground on a fire station sometime in 2012.

“This site would definitely be an appropriate site and a good fit for a fire station, so we’re still actively discussing this,” Levitt said of the ESC.

The city has considered a number of sites, including the area near the intersection of Racine Street and Randall Avenue, as a way of improving response times and replacing a station that is said to be outdated and too small. A 2009 estimate for construction was $6 million.

The Janesville Ice Skating Center is no longer being considered as a fire station site, Levitt said.

City officials told the Gazette in 2009 that a 28,000-square-foot fire station would need about 2 acres. That’s the size of the ESC property.

The school district would likely move its offices to an empty elementary school—the idea of closing a school is being studied this summer—or to Franklin Middle School, which might have enough extra space, Superintendent Karen Schulte said.

School board member Peter D. Severson said he was nervous about moving the ESC into a closed school because the school could be needed if enrollment rises.

Levitt said he would discuss possible sites with the city council this summer.

Pennington said even if the district doesn’t sell to the city, the ESC might be sold at some point to another buyer, so the appraisal would be useful.

History of the ESC

The Janesville School District’s headquarters at 527 S. Franklin Street, known as the Educational Services Center, has been in district hands since 1976. Here’s a brief history:

-- Unknown dates: School district administrative offices were at Janesville High School, which later became Marshall Junior High School, the present-day Marshall Apartments.

-- 1940—A vocational-technical school building is built at 527 S. Franklin St.

-- 1959—School administration offices move to Garfield School, which no longer was needed as a school building. Garfield, on South Jackson Street in the Fourth Ward, no longer exists.

-- 1971—An Educational Services Center is set up in rented space at 115 S. Franklin St.

-- 1976—The school district buys the “Vo-Tech building” from the city of Janesville for $575,000 plus financing costs. The district still uses the original building but has expanded it several times over the years. The building now encompasses 34,000 square feet. The entire site is 2 acres.

-- 2009—City officials first discuss with school district officials the idea of using the site for a new fire station.

Last updated: 5:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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