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Closed schools to go on auction block in Brooke County

ON THE AUCTION BLOCK — The former Follansbee Middle School is among three Brooke County school properties that will go up for bid in public auctions to be held later this month. Auctions also have been set for Beech Bottom and Lauretta B. Millsop primary schools. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — Brooke County school officials have set the times and dates for auctions to be held for three closed schools, a move they hope will generate much-needed revenue.

Superintendent Jeffrey Crook said two auctions will be held March 30: One at 9 a.m. for Lauretta B. Millsop Primary School and another at 1 p.m. for Follansbee Middle School. He said another will be held at 9 a.m. March 31 for Beech Bottom Primary School.

Plans also have been made to sell at auction a trailer used for night classes held by the school district’s alternative learning center and its lot at 26th Street and Route 2. The date for it hasn’t been set.

Each auction will be held at the school that is up for bid.

Any party can bid on the properties, but the school board has the right to reject any bid.

Crook said Beech Bottom village officials have expressed interest in using the Beech Bottom school for a community center.

With that in mind, the school board approved a $1 minimum bid for the property, though other bids could be considered.

Asked if there has been interest in the other two sites, Crook said, “We’ve had a couple of nibbles and are hoping they hold true.”

A minimum bid for L.B. Millsop has been set at $137,000 based on an appraisal obtained by the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle when it was employed by the board to market it and other schools to potential new owners.

The BDC is no longer under contract to the school board.

A minimum bid of $500,000 has been set for Follansbee Middle School, its asking price lowered from $750,000 sought for it at an auction held last year.

Crook said if sold, the Millsop school won’t become available until the end of the school year so it may continue to be used by the school district’s Alternative Learning Center.

Plans call for it to be moved next year to the former Wellsburg Middle School.

Materials of the Handle on Science program currently stored at Beech Bottom also will be moved there.

Previous school officials made plans to sell the schools and another — Colliers Primary School, which is being used for storage — when they closed them, citing declining enrollment, in 2018.

The sales could generate additional revenue at a time when the current board is struggling with a $3.2 million per year shortfall resulting from a miscalculation in the county’s five-year levy.

School officials confirmed that even a $1 sale of the former Beech Bottom school would save the school district $8,000 in utility costs required to maintain the building.

Deidra Parr, the school district’s treasurer, said the board pays about $125,000 to insure all of its properties and selling the three schools would likely reduce that cost by one-third.

School officials face the possible elimination of 77 professional and service positions not covered by a state funding formula based on enrollment.

Hearings on pending elimination of positions and transfer of staff, for those personnel who request them, will be held in April.

On Monday the school board voted not to pay $5,000 stipends to about 400 employees that had been included in the levy to prevent it from reaching a level of deficit spending prohibited by the state.

Crook said he and board members will face hard decisions as they work to make the school district solvent.

He said calculations for the levy were made prior to his administration but he and the school district’s staff must deal with them.

“We just have to tighten our belts and keep our belts tight. We were kind of dealt a raw deal and the staff was, too, because they were promised that money,” he said.

“We’re hoping we can dig out of it in a couple of years but it’s all dependent on enrollment,” Crook said.

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