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Advisory committee to recommend sale of Remington school to BOCES

A Central Valley School District advisory committee exploring the future of the former Remington school building will recommend to the school board to sell the Remington building to Herkimer BOCES.

The committee of Central Valley staff, BOCES administrators, and community members met in mid-July for the first of two planned meetings. By the time the meeting ended, the group determined that selling the building best aligned with the school’s educational mission. The information was so compelling that the committee decided there would be no value in a second meeting.

“The committee looked at the building’s history, the district’s needs, possible building uses, legal restrictions, and the financial impact of any decision,” said Central Valley Superintendent Jeremy Rich.

“They asked questions and kicked around different ideas. The most impressive part of the conversations was that they always came back to what was best for students.”

No longer needed

The very first item Rich addressed was the fact that Central Valley no longer needs a fifth building.

“We have operated without Remington for our first six years and throughout the Jarvis Middle School renovation. We have fully refurbished CVA, Barringer Road, and Fisher. Once Jarvis reopens, the district will have ample space for our students and programs,” he said.

As the former Remington Elementary principal, he has a strong emotional tie to the building. That nostalgia, he said, is offset by the fact that it would be a disservice to ask taxpayers to maintain a building the district no longer needs.

Housing critical BOCES programs

The committee heard from two Herkimer BOCES administrators, Patrick Corrigan, Principal of Alternative Education and Mary Kline, Director of Adult Community and Outreach Education. They each stressed the vital role the Remington building plays in delivering educational services to students and adults.

Corrigan said Pathways Academy serves 110 grade 7-12 students who have exhausted all options in their home districts. Pathways program focus their specific needs by providing programs that address student well-being, ensure greater access to social workers, increase safety, and elevate student expectations. Rich noted that almost half of Pathways’ students come from Central Valley and that the district lacks the space and resources to provide such a specialized program.

Corrigan added Remington also house 10 high-needs, self-contained classrooms.

Kline listed several adult programs at Remington.

TASC, the high school equivalency program, serves adults who never earned a high school diploma. About 100 people are currently enrolled in the Licensed Practical Nursing program. Others attend the Certified Nursing Assistant and literacy programs.

“We were reminded of the value of Remington programs to current Central Valley students, as well aas to other Herkimer BOCES school districts and to our adult community,” said Rich.

“After three years, Remington has become an integral part of BOCES programs. Without it, BOCES will be forced to build an estimated $40-million addition at the W.E.B. complex to house these vital programs.”

Exploring other options

Community member David Murray was unable to attend, but emailed his thoughts and questions in advance of the meeting. He asked the committee to consider selling the building to the Village of Ilion or another entity as part of a sports facility/complex that could be a component of a larger economic development plan. He also asked about legal requirements and limitations.

“We discussed Mr. Murray’s thoughts, many of which were outside our normal educational thinking,” said Rich.

“In the end, we agreed they had merit, but were outweighed by our students’ needs. If BOCES did not have a legitimate need, his ideas would be worth pursuing.”

Rich also said the school attorney explained that portions of the Remington property had been gifted to the school with the provision that the property would remain in public use. It would be nearly impossible to subdivide the property to allow for the sale to a private party.

He also cited community safety and property values as support for a BOCES sale.

“BOCES operates throughout the day and into the evening. That means there is always someone present, minimizing worries over vacancy, loitering, or abandonment. An unsupervised building invites trouble and that’s bad for the neighborhood,” he said.

Selling for a dollar

County Legislator Bob Hollum said one of the biggest questions is the original proposal to sell a valuable building for just a dollar. Community member Chuck Mower agreed that the question of finances needs to be clearly explained.

The committee discussed the economics of the Remington property. Among the key points:

  • Central Valley does not make money renting to BOCES. The current $92,500 per year rent covers the costs of utilities, routine maintenance, and a part-time custodian. It does not cover any major repairs. Rich said that the district has essentially broken even over the past three years.
  • Any revenue from a sale would be deducted dollar-for-dollar from the district’s state building aid. Central Valley will receive roughly $800,000 over the next 10 years in building aid for a previous Remington renovation project. The state will reduce that aid by any revenue from the sale.
  • A third party sale, if possible, would require a sales price well above $800,000 to offset the loss of state aid and to pay Central Valley’s share of any BOCES building project. As the largest of the 10 districts in the BOCES, Central Valley would pay roughly one-third of any BOCES building project based on student population. The other districts would each pay a smaller share based on their size.
  • A sale price of one-dollar to BOCES preserves Central Valley’s building aid and ensures BOCES continues providing Central Valley students vital services at minimal cost.

“We ran the numbers and selling the building for a dollar makes the most financial sense,” said Rich.

“It comes back to the aid. We would make more money selling it for a dollar and collecting that aid over the next ten years than we would by selling it for more.”

Continued access to athletic fields

A major concern has been continuing Central Valley’s access to Remington’s sports fields. Several of Central Valley’s sports teams practice or play games at Remington.

Mr. Corrigan said BOCES has no interest in the fields. BOCES uses the fields for physical education during the school day. After school, Central Valley’s athletic coordinator schedules practices and games, which would continue. Over the past six years, there has never been a point at which Central Valley did not have access to the fields. If BOCES purchases Remington, this arrangement would continue, but could not be formalized until the purchase is complete. Central Valley would move ahead with a handshake agreement.

Because of minimum land requirements for a school building and deed restrictions separating the fields from the property would be virtually impossible.

>Next steps

The Central Valley Board of Education will consider the advisory committee’s recommendation at its next meeting. If approved, Central Valley would hold a vote in November asking residents for permission to sell. If voters approve that measure, BOCES officials would present their plans to each of the 10 component school district boards of education. All 10 communities would vote on whether to approve the BOCES purchase.