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Realtors Discourage Private Sale of Elementary Schools

Prior to engaging in serious discussion about the 2011-12 school year budget, representatives from Coldwell Banker Realtors of Towanda made a presentation to the Wyalusing Area School Board and highly recommended that they put the sale of four elementary schools into the hands of realtors rather than trying to market the buildings on their own.

As of the April 4 meeting, school board members were leaning toward the private sale option, having noted that some interest had already been shown in some of the buildings. Board member Larry Franklin suggested that the school district solicit offers on the school buildings that had already generated interest and then bring in a real estate company to sell the others.

At that time, Wyalusing Area School District superintendent Ray Fleming agreed, stating “You don’t have to sell them all the same way.”

School board president Debbie Stethers said, “It might benefit us to have a broker who could get the word out to a larger area.” She did concur with fellow board members, however, that selling the buildings privately might help the school district maintain more control over their future use.

Coldwell Realtors franchise owner Valerie Raupers and realtors Suzanne Robinson and Dave Lynch spent approximately 20 minutes assuring board members and school administrators that their shared concerns over building use would be a top priority.

“We will be very sensitive to your needs,” Lynch remarked. He and Robinson commented that they had seen the buildings and found them to be in “excellent” shape.

Raupers expressed her confidence that the schools could be sold by the end of summer. Lynch agreed that the market is strong right now in Bradford County for buildings with adequate square footage and ample parking. The representatives were forthright in suggesting that gas companies and related industries are among the most likely potential buyers.

“Chesapeake and the other companies are great resources to you,” Raupers concurred, adding that the school district stands to capitalize on the need of gas drilling-related businesses to acquire large properties and office space, as well as potential living space for gas workers.

“These properties are located in prime, gas-related locations,” said Lynch. “If (the gas companies) don’t get what they need, they will build or go elsewhere.” If the buildings are not sold, he reminded those in attendance, the school district will continue to bear the costs of maintaining the buildings, an actuality that Fleming pointed out in the April 4 meeting as something to avoid.

“There are not a lot of commercial buildings on the market right now,” Robinson added.

In addition to touting the ability of an established real estate company to market the buildings in and outside the area at no cost to the district, the Coldwell representatives also cautioned board members that private sales can create too many loopholes and actually undermine their desire to maintain control over the use of the buildings.

“In deference to the communities that we serve, I think that we need to ensure that the buildings are going to be used properly,” said school board member Richard Robinson.

Raupers acknowledged that there are already zoning restrictions in Wyalusing Borough and Wyalusing Township that affect the potential use of two of the school buildings up for sale. She suggested that, by working with a realtor, the school board would have more leverage and professional support to establish acceptable criteria.  Otherwise, she explained, “If there are no deed restrictions and no zoning, you’re wide open to anything.”

“In the end, we want to make everybody happy with the deal,” Lynch remarked. “We live here too.”

Raupers’s strongest counsel against the school district taking the private sale route concerned a lack of control over information about interested parties and discussing verbal offers. “I have to be honest. It bothers me that there are bids out there that somebody knows about,” she stated. “You need to close the door on that right now and start this process over.”

Raupers also suggested that the appraised value of the structures and the conservative estimate by the school district as to how much of a profit might be realized from the sale of the buildings are both too low.

“To sell these schools at the appraised values would be doing the district an injustice,” she asserted.

The realtors’ offer to stay through the rest of the meeting to entertain more questions from the board members and administrators after other budget issues was readily accepted.


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