Farmer hopes to buy closed Newark school
TOWN OF NEWARK A rural Brodhead man offering to buy the closed Newark school says he wants to turn the rural building into an assisted living facility, possibly with the gymnasium available for community use.
Paul Britton, a farmer who lives in the town of Avon, said his plan would put the property back on the tax rolls and create a quieter atmosphere than it was as a school.
"We want to be good neighbors to the people out there," he said.
Tuesday's story in the Gazette about Monday's Parkview School Board meeting incorrectly stated Britton was set to finalize the sale Tuesday. Britton was set to make a formal offer and deposit earnest money Tuesday, Superintendent Steve Lutzke said.
Britton said he has been talking with engineers and contractors and met with them Tuesday at the school at 11247 Merlet Road. He confirmed he planned to put money down with his offer.
The offer came quickly after the school board unanimously approved a plan at its regular meeting Monday night to list the elementary school for sale at $135,000. Britton said he offered the asking price.
"We certainly didn't expect to leave the meeting last night with someone offering to buy it," Lutzke said Tuesday.
The board took no action on Britton's comments. Other parties have stated interest in buying the property, Lutzke said, so "we'll see where that goes."
School districts must get voter approval to sell property. The district plans to hold the vote on selling Newark at the annual meeting Aug. 20, whether a buyer is lined up or not, Lutzke said.
Voters only approve the sale of property. The school board must approve the terms and conditions of the sale, he said.
Britton said contractors offered many ideas at the site meeting, and he said he'd like to make the gym with attached kitchen and a meeting room open to the community.
The one-hallway school was dedicated in November 1959, and Britton said the building itself is in good shape with a good heating system. To be done right, he said he expects to put $450,000 into the building to break it into smaller rooms for up to 20 residents.
Britton would need approval from the Newark Town Board, as well as meet state requirements, before the deal is done. He said he would submit plans to the town board by next month so they can be considered at a September meeting.
Town Chairman David Grenawalt said he did not have enough information about the proposal to comment.
The district closed the school due to declining enrollment and budget cuts after classes ended in June. Former students at the school will be consolidated into Footville and Orfordville schools in the fall.
While Britton's main business is farming, he said he's wanted to do an assisted living project for six to seven years, and has previously thought about the Newark building.
If the deal is finalized and gains town approval, Britton hopes to have construction done in winter to be able to re-open the building in spring.