Board ponders fate of building

Asbestos abatement likely will increase the cost.
AUSTINTOWN -- Whether the school district demolishes the Austintown Middle School building before selling the property or leaves that to the buyer hasn't been determined.
The district is expected to sell the Mahoning Avenue property after a new middle school on Raccoon Road is completed and pupils move in.
Brad Gessner, school board president, said that under Ohio law, any charter or community schools in the school district would have first crack at buying the building for its appraised value. There are no charter or community schools operating in the district now, he said.
The next step is an auction at which the district can set a reserve price, or amount under which it won't sell the property.
"If it doesn't sell at the reserve price, then we can sell it outright," Gessner said.
At that point, the board will have to decide whether to demolish the building, built in 1916, before the sale or leave that to a new owner.
"We can't put the cart before the horse," the board president said.
The age of the building also likely means asbestos abatement will have to be completed before the school can be razed, adding to the expense.
Last week, the township zoning commission approved rezoning the middle school property from a combination of business, agricultural and residential to all business.
The change goes before township trustees later this month.
School board members have said the zone change was to make the property more appealing to prospective buyers, though no buyer is in place.
Construction on the new school for grades 6-8 is expected to start soon. Plans submitted to the township zoning and fire departments earlier this year show three floors and 174,668 square feet.
The school could be ready for the 2006-07 school year.
When the new school is done, district fourth- and fifth-graders will attend Frank Ohl Middle School. Both AMS and Frank Ohl now house grades 5-8; fourth-graders attend one of the district's five elementary schools.
The district borrowed the money to build the $26 million school through a 2.9-mill bond issue voters approved in November 2003.
The building will have 44 classrooms, about 900 square feet each; eight special education classrooms; seven 1,179-square-foot science labs; and two computer labs that will cover about 900 square feet each.

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