Janesville55°

Board OKs $202,500 offer for Newark school

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GINA R. HEINE
July 26, 2012

— The Parkview School Board voted 4-0 Wednesday night to approve a counteroffer to sell Newark Elementary School for $202,500 plus closing costs to a farmer who wants to turn the rural school into an assisted living facility.

The board awarded the winning bid to Paul Britton of the town of Avon after a closed session discussion to consider offers from three bidders.

District residents must approve the sale in a vote that will be held during the annual meeting Aug. 20. Voters can only approve the sale, not alter terms or conditions of the sale, Superintendent Steve Lutzke said.

Sale of the 17,700-square-foot school at 11247 Merlet Road includes 6 acres of land.

The decision came after a different bidder filed a written protest to the district over the bidding process. The district requested written bids be submitted by 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The written bids were:

-- Britton at $145,000. The offer also stated he would be willing to bid $1,500 more than the next highest offer up to $205,000.

-- BBM of Beloit at $150,000.

-- Pleasant View Mennonite Church of the town of Newark at $140,000.

Mike Draeving of BBM addressed the board before it went into closed session. He said he was told his bid was the highest after submitting it on time. After the deadline, the district started taking verbal counteroffers over the phone, he said, and the letter he received about the bid process didn't say anything about actions happening after the deadline.

Draeving told the board it should accept his offer as the highest and consider if the process was done fairly, properly and ethically. He told a reporter during the closed session he might take legal action over the bid process. He declined to comment after the meeting.

The district worked with its lawyers to set a process and inform bidders they could alter their bid if they weren't the highest, Lutzke said after the meeting. After Tuesday's deadline, bidders made counteroffers by phone, and Lutzke decided to have all bidders meet at noon Wednesday.

The highest bid at the start of the meeting was Pleasant View at $170,000, Lutzke said. The other two bidders had two minutes to counter. Draeving did not participate. The other two bidders exchanged counteroffers until Britton won at $202,500.

"I think our process was transparent and clear," he said.

There was a "snafu" with Draeving getting the wrong letter, but the letter he received didn't say the high offer would be approved or accepted, Lutzke said. Another version of the letter said the board may consider accepting alternate bids, but it didn't say whether the board would do so.

"I regret that he was frustrated with the process," Lutzke said. "We didn't do anything wrong. We didn't deceive him in any way."

The board approved a plan at its July 16 meeting to list the elementary school for $135,000 after reviewing an appraisal the board ordered in May. Britton made an offer at the meeting to buy the school at the district's asking price.

The Newark Town Board had been exploring what actions it could take to slow the sale after residents unhappy with the closure sought help from the board, said board Supervisor Don Davis.

A lot of residents are unhappy the school is closing and have many unanswered questions, he said. Town board members talked with their attorney and discovered the board could not take legal action against the district.

"They (town residents) would just like to see some justification as to why this is happening," he said.

Board members Troy Knudson and Chuck Hagmann were absent from Wednesday's meeting. Board member Terry Gerber took part in the closed session but had to leave before the vote.

The one-hallway school was dedicated in November 1959. 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 schools in Footville and Orfordville.



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