BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Central School District will officially vote on the possible sale of Clarksville Elementary School to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in February, following a year of deliberation and some changes to the terms of the sale.
The vote, which is expected to take place on Wednesday, Feb. 7, will be on an offer to buy the property outright, instead of over three years through a lease-to-buy contract as previously proposed.
The district would also retain right of first refusal — should the county ever decide to sell the building, BSCD would be given the first chance to reacquire it.
A majority of the $325,000 price tag, $196,000, will actually be paid through in-kind patrol services.
The remaining $129,000 will be paid upon closing, once the school board and the county have both approved the terms of the transaction and there has been a 60-day permissive referendum period, during which a resident can petition to prompt a district-wide vote. (A valid petition would require the signatures of ten percent of qualified district voters, approximately 1,100 as of last summer’s voter rolls.) Aside from the outright sale, the terms are identical to those approved by the school board last summer, said Kehoe.
When board member Jonathan Fishbein asked whether the sale would affect district funding, Kehoe acknowledged that some state funding would be reduced due to the up-front sale. However, she added that there would also be savings on costs that the district would have been required to pay for an additional three years under the lease-to-purchase deal.
Board member Charmaine L. Wijeyesinghe asked for time to look at the new contracts after district lawyers re-draft them, saying she would prefer not to have to make the decision in less than a day. She also said, however, that the sheriff’s department has been a good steward of the building and that she felt to open up the process to new potential buyers at this stage could be seen as in bad faith.
Board Chair Christine Beck, who originally opposed the sale, also said that she felt an agreement has already been made and it would be in poor taste to back out at this point.
Board member Michael Cooper said he thinks that the value of the property is likely to continue to decline (an appraisal received by the district one day earlier reflected a reduction in value, according to Kehoe) and he doesn’t wish to see it sit empty.
Ultimately, it appears the board will approve the terms. If voted down, either by the board, the county, or BCSD residents in a public referendum, it’s likely the county will vacate the building in search of permanent offices elsewhere.