Monday, September 22, 2003

Grads buy Stewart school for $1.6M

Property's future use undisclosed

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - An Oxford company headed by Talawanda High School graduates will buy Stewart Elementary School for $1.6 million.

Hotel Development Services LLC submitted one of six proposals the Talawanda Board of Education considered after it received no bids at a public auction last month. Though there were higher bids, the board accepted HDS' bid because there were no contingencies.

"This was a cash deal. There were no strings attached," said Glenn Bailey, board president. "We know these people. They're Talawanda graduates."

Other bids were dependent on zoning changes, variances, reviews by the Environmental Protection Agency or action by city bodies, Superintendent Phil Cagwin said before Friday's vote.

Cagwin and Bailey said they do not know what HDS will use the property for. Attempts to reach the firm were unsuccessful.

The South College Avenue school sits on seven acres in the geographic center of Oxford in the mile square district. It was closed last June.

For years teachers complained that the air quality in the 74-year-old school sickened them and their students. But an indoor air quality survey by ATC Associates showed acceptable readings.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission had recommended abandoning Stewart because the cost to bring it up to current school standards was excessive.

Cagwin said once the paperwork is completed, a closing date no later than Nov. 7 would be set. The money the district receives would be put into a permanent improvement fund.

Bailey said the board has not begun discussions yet on how the money would be spent. Those talks might wait until after the Nov. 4 election. The board has put a $9.2 million bond issue on the ballot to pay for construction of a new elementary school to replace Stewart.

It is the district's third try in the past year to win voter approval. Two larger issues were rejected last February and November 2002.

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