Maury County Commission members are putting the brakes on a proposal to take possession of Columbia’s closed McDowell Elementary School.
Commissioners initially expressed interest in repossessing the seven-acre property along West 7th Street when the school district received no offers for the property.
The decision follows a recent complaint from school district staff, who claim that an investor planning to buy the site was falsely told he could not dismantle the deteriorating school building that stood on the site. owned for over 50 years.
“This is the result of shorting offers due to bad information,” said Michael Fulbright, chairman of the local school board. “We know this is a precious commodity.
In an interview with The Daily Herald this week, Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said the party interested in buying the property has been told the city cannot guarantee that the school, which is in bad shape state, would be approved for demolition by the city’s historical commission.
The state of the school has remained the concern of educators, students and parents for the past decade.
School board members also expressed concern over the progress of the agreement during a weekend retreat.
In a proposal made by Commissioner Scott Sumners this week, the body voted in favor of a plan to reconsider the acquisition of the property when it was taken over in January.
“I would like the entities to come together and try to find a use for the property,” said Sumners, who represents District 5. “I need to know what the school board has in mind for this property.
The site is valued at nearly $ 2 million.
“I don’t think we have to deal with this property right now,” said District 6 Commissioner Sue Stephenson, who encouraged the school board to sell the property.
“We have to step back and let the schools take care of this property,” Stephenson said.
Other commissioners express their concern at the idea of taking back the property without a clear vision of its future use.
“I have to make sure that we are buying property that is necessary and not speculative,” said Craig Harris, who represents District 2.
With a 138-year legacy, McDowell held his last day of class in May after years of deliberating what to do with the property, including an $ 18 million proposal to build a new school on the site. .
Now, as the school district and county commission continue to consider the transfer, principals are considering moving forward with the demolition of the school building.
The demolition is estimated at around $ 400,000.
“Right now that money feels like a necessary investment in something we own,” said Austin Hooper, District 8 School Board Member.
McDowell is celebrated as having been one, if not the most diverse campus in the school district. About 20% of the students at the school speak Spanish as their first language and the student body is almost evenly divided into racial and ethnic origin.
After the closure at the end of last school year, McDowell students and their educators transferred to other schools in Columbia, including Riverside Elementary.
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This article originally appeared in the Daily Herald: County Suspends Ownership of McDowell Elementary School