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School boards puts campuses on sale

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — September 21, 2010 — The Sullivan West school board voted 7-1 Thursday night to figuratively hang a “For Sale” sign in front of both the Delaware Valley and Narrowsburg schools.
Board member John Reggero was the lone dissenter, but not because he had a problem with the idea.
“I’m certainly in favor of the sale of the schools,” he affirmed after the meeting.
Reggero was worried that the retention of the oil and gas mineral rights under each campus – an amendment to the original resolution, proposed by board member Noel van Swol and approved by the board majority – would lead some, including potential buyers, to think that the district intends to allow drilling on those properties.
“I don’t want that message sent out to the community,” he explained.
But fellow board members pointed out during the meeting that keeping those rights is actually the only way to have any control over drilling at those sites.
“Basically, by holding on to it, we can’t lose,” observed board member Ken Cohen. “We can allow it or prevent it.”
Board member Angela Daley assumed van Swol was looking at the “allow” side – he’s already leading an effort to lease properties for gas drilling in Sullivan and Delaware counties – but she agreed it affords the district some control of the future.
In fact, that’s about all SW will be able to have a say in. By law, it cannot dictate what a buyer can do with either campus – or choose a bidder based on their plans for the properties.
“We really have only one area of recourse,” said Daley.
That’s the bidding requirements, which were formalized Thursday. To be deemed qualified to bid, bidders must agree to confidentiality, deliver a purchase agreement to the district that includes financial disclosures proving creditworthiness, and deposit five percent of whatever their bid amount is.
Additionally, the bid specifications state that “the district reserves all rights to terminate the bidding process at any time if the district determines, in its business judgment, that the bidding process will not maximize the value of the district’s property.
“In addition, the district reserves all rights not to accept any bid which is not acceptable to the district for any reason.”
Van Swol, citing concerns over potential uses of each campus, wanted every bidder to meet with the full board first.
“We can’t be too cautious,” he noted.
But a meeting cannot be forced, replied Reggero.
“It’d be entirely voluntary,” van Swol responded. “... But I think any serious bidders would be happy to talk to us.”
After all, he pointed out, the one developer interested in both campuses, Ilwon Kang of New York City and New Jersey, has already met with SW Supt. Ken Hilton.
But, as Rose Crotty remarked, any buyer could flip the property after he/she purchased it.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask,” replied van Swol.
Bids are due by November 15 and can be for just the 2.2-acre Narrowsburg school, the 5-acre Delaware Valley school, or both. While DV’s bus garage is part of the sale, its surrounding 63 acres are not. Similarly, 14 acres of athletic fields near the Narrowsburg campus are not for sale.
Pending approval from the district’s attorney, however, even the acreage that is for sale will have the mineral rights retained by SW.
How much that might affect any sale is unknown. Though the Narrowsburg building recently appraised at $700,000 and the DV campus in Callicoon at $2.7 million, the district is not setting a minimum bid.
Should more than one bidder participate, the properties will be auctioned off on November 22. In any event, the board is expected to approve the final sales agreement on December 2.

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