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Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Sale of former Franklin school unclear

Purchase sought for Montezuma

By William Kincaid

Two brothers hope Celina City Schools Board of Education members will sell the d. . .

CELINA - A pair of brothers representing South Shore-Zuma Inc., which supports Montezuma's parks, planned to offer school board members on Wednesday morning a proposal to purchase the Franklin Building and surrounding 5 acres of land.
However, earlier in the morning, Kevin and Ben Kramer said they had learned from the board's attorney in an email that board members could not sell the property to South Shore-Zuma because it's a nonprofit entity.
"After talking for a few weeks and finding out this morning, it's a little upsetting, but it just sounds like a hurdle that we're going to have to ... jump over," Kevin Kramer said.
The Kramers then asked board members at their special meeting to consider selling the property to an eligible entity - a government agency with taxing authority - in lieu of holding a public auction as planned. The land would then be used as green space.
Selling the property to an organization with which the people of Franklin Township are comfortable would go a long way toward improving relations between residents and school officials, Kevin Kramer argued.
"I think you guys are all aware that the relationship between the people in Franklin Township and the Celina schools has not been great, and I think it would go a long way for both of us, as far as passing school levies, maybe getting some kids through open enrollment back to Celina," he said.
Ben Kramer then said he has been in contact with a government agency official - not saying whether it was a Montezuma or Franklin Township official - who indicated his body would be willing to negotiate with board members to purchase the property.
However, the official needs to know just how much money board members want for the property, Ben Kramer said.
"I think you guys were in contact with maybe the village of Montezuma and the Franklin Township trustees over the possible purchase of the property," Ben Kramer said. "We understand you can't separate the five acres from the school because you were told you need that five acres for a new well for the building. That's understandable."
However, Ben Kramer said years ago, long before anyone in the room had been associated with Celina schools, a "gentleman's agreement" was struck that if the property ever came up for sale, the park would have the right of first refusal for the five acres.
He again reiterated the need for the board to give them a starting price for negotiations.
"If that property were sitting next to you, you'd care what happened to it," Ben Kramer said. "There's not a more prominent piece of property in Franklin Township than the five acres that sits at the corner of state Route 219."
The brothers said though Franklin Township has zoning standards, many people are worried about what could spring up next to the park, church and priest house.
"You could come back to us with a number or you can make the decision to let it go to public auction. We understand that's certainly in your prerogative," Ben Kramer said, adding they would like to see school officials sell the property back to Franklin Township residents.
Board member Bill Sell said the board hasn't set a reserve or minimum price yet for the public auction while board member Cindy Piper questioned whether the board could sell the property after having already advertised the public auction.
Superintendent Ken Schmiesing said the board could indeed sell the property ahead of the public auction. He also said the building and land are assessed at around $1 million.
Board members took no action on the request before entering into executive session to consider the purchase of property for the public purposes or for the sale of property at competitive bidding. After emerging an hour and a half later, they took no action.
In May, Schmiesing informed Montezuma Village Council members the school-owned Head Start facility - the Franklin Building - located in Montezuma will be up for auction on June 28. Celina school board members in March agreed to move the Head Start program to the Education Complex in Celina by the end of May.
Schmiesing at the time had asked if the village would be interested in the property, noting the building needs a new well and its heating system is in dire need of being replaced. The cost for a new well could range from $30,000-$70,000, and replacing the heating system could cost about $1.2 million, he had noted.
Council members said they would discuss the matter further and decide by the next council meeting at 6:30 p.m. June 21.
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