LOCKPORT – The Lockport Board of Education decided Wednesday night to hold a second referendum on the sale of the closed Washington Hunt Elementary School.
The seven board members who showed up for Wednesday’s work session unanimously decided to hold the vote from noon to 9 p.m. July 29 at the same six polling places used for the May 20 budget referendum.
The sale of the school was one of the additional propositions on the ballot that day, and it was defeated, 805 to 767.
The only person to make an offer on the Rogers Avenue school when the district sought bids last spring was Robert Muscarella, owner of Ultimate Physique, an Ann Street health club.
The board accepted Muscarella’s offer of $65,000, which was one-third the value of $195,000 put on the building by an appraiser hired by the district.
Muscarella wants to move his business to the two-story, 33,200-square-foot school, built in 1929. It was closed in June 2013 because of declining enrollment in the district. Muscarella has said it will likely cost him $1 million to remove asbestos and renovate the building to meet his requirements.
The board is to vote officially to hold the second referendum at its formal meeting next Wednesday.
Assistant Superintendent Deborah A. Coder told the board it was required by state law to wait at least 45 days from the official adoption of a resolution to hold the referendum, and it must hold the vote on a weekday.
“The district has agreed we want to sell this building. If we don’t sell it, we have to maintain it,” board President John A. Linderman said.
Board member Marietta Schrader said maintaining the empty building would cost about $40,000 a year.
The only members to voice any doubts were R. Joseph O’Shaughnessy, who said he was in favor only if the district were reimbursed $2,300 it spent on a second appraisal, and Anthony Molinaro, who wondered if fall would be a better time to vote in hopes of a higher turnout. But most members wanted to hold the vote as soon as possible.
Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said she had received some calls from residents who were confused by the voting last time. On May 20, the district used old-fashioned lever voting machines, and there seemed to be some confusion about which lever was “yes” and which one was “no” as the paper strips for the four propositions were laid out in a row.
This time, the board agreed, it will use paper ballots to be scanned by the Niagara County Board of Elections’ new optical scanners, used in primary and general elections.