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Going once, going twice … NOT SOLD

IRONTON — Following five weeks of speculation, guesswork, hearsay and even a little politics, the much anticipated Ironton City School building auction concluded with a single bid on only one building.

In total, only one of the five eligible buildings fell under the hammer on Monday. That school, West Ironton Elementary, garnered the accepted minimum bid of $62,500. Auction rules mandated minimum bids be 50 percent of the building’s appraised value. West Ironton was appraised at $125,000.

None of the other four buildings in the auction — Central School, Whitwell Elementary, Lawrence Street School and the Board of Education Office — even received a bid.

The sales slip for West Ironton was signed by Ed Rambacher and Ironton-based R Financial Services, LLC. When reached by phone, Rambacher said he had “tentative plans” for the building, but declined to elaborate until his bid was approved by the Ironton School Board.

A condition of the auction stipulates that all accepted bids be approved by members of the Ironton Board of Education. The board can approve a bid, or decline it and use other means to garner maximum value from the building and property.

The Ironton School Board will meet in executive session on July 21 to discuss the West Ironton bid.

R Financial Services, LLC was required Monday to put a 10-percent “faithful performance” deposit down on the building and should their bid be approved, would have 30 days to pay the remaining 90 percent on the building.

All buildings in the auction are sold “as is.”

While the fate of West Ironton will rest with the board, the future of the district’s administrative building and Lawrence Street School became a little clearer following the auction.

Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance said the Board of Education offices “will probably stay” at its current site while Lawrence Street School will become the new home of the district’s two preschool classes currently held at Central School.

Nance said it “makes sense” to move the preschool to Lawrence Street School based on Central’s current condition. Central also housed the Ironton-Lawrence County’s Community Action Organization’s Head Start Program.

The poverty agency’s absence from the auction was one of the few surprises on Monday. In the weeks leading up to the sale, the CAO had been rumored to have a high level of interest in obtaining Whitwell.

Even Nance said he “was surprised the CAO didn’t show up.”

However, that interest deteriorated in the past two weeks, according to CAO Executive Director D.R. Gossett.

Gossett said that while the agency “definitely wanted to bid on Whitwell,” current funding cuts coming from Columbus put the CAO in a position where bidding Monday would not have been the most financially sound decision.

“We are gravely concerned about new funding coming in,” Gossett said. “Our appetite for taking on a new facility was not there. In this environment we could not take this on.”

Based on that, Gossett said the CAO “opted not to bid” and informed the school district about a week before the auction of their intention.

Now, without its own home for its Head Start program, Gossett said the CAO probably would be looking to lease from the district again and indicated the agency is “absolutely looking at space at Lawrence Street School.”

Two questions that were not answered Monday were the futures of both Central School and Whitwell Elementary.

With no interest in either building at the auction, the district has several options.

Since a public auction was held, the district now has the option to sell either building privately. However, Nance said any type of private sale would be going against the wishes of the board.

“Now would have been the time for someone to buy one of the buildings,” Nance said when explaining the minimum appraisal bids offered in Monday’s auction. “I am not hopeful that these buildings will sell privately.”

Another option, at least in the case of Whitwell, would be to demolish the building and resell the land only.

The state facilities commission does offer a program where monies are available to demolish school buildings. The state picks up 73 percent of the costs with the school district picking up the remaining 27 percent. The stipulation is that the building had to have been recently used to house district students.

Nance said the district does have the funding set aside should they elect to go that route with Whitwell. West Ironton is also eligible for demolition funding.

Central had been the most discussed property in the auction since it was discovered that possible plans for the building, should it not sell, would be to convert it into the district’s bus garage and automotive technical classroom, at least temporarily.

Area residents and even Ironton City Council chimed in on the district’s plan saying the property was not zoned for such a transition.

Nance later told The Tribune that while Central was one option considered for the bus garage, “every scenario winds up with the final bus garage at the high school.”

Kingsbury School is not part of the auction package. The South Sixth Street school building will become the new home for St. Lawrence Catholic School in the fall under a standing lease agreement the district has with the catholic parish.

Monies generated for the sale of any or all buildings will be directed towards improvements not covered under the facilities program that built the new schools. Among them include repairs to Tanks Memorial Stadium and the Conley Center.

Nance said items like desks and cabinets at each school would be auctioned off to the general public at a date later this summer.