August 20, 2013 11:02:45 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
In a few weeks the public will have an opportunity to tour the Lee Middle School property, the Columbus Municipal School District announced Monday.
The district will have open houses at the property on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursday, Sept. 12, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
While the school board approved the open houses, both dates were announced as tentative and subject to change.
Board president Jason Spears said potential buyers should bring flashlights to the open house.
"We encourage individuals attending to bring their flashlights and no one under the age of 21 will be allowed to tour the facility," he said.
Lee Middle and Brandon Central Office are listed for sale for an undisclosed price. The two properties have been the topic of debate for more than a year as two local churches have expressed interest in Lee Middle. Lee Middle School sits vacant while Brandon serves as the central office for the district.
Point of Grace Church has expressed interest in Lee Middle School since last year. The church originally offered $175,000 but the offer was rejected because it did not conform to state laws governing the sale of school property. The church has expressed continued interest in the property.
In recent months, Pastor R.J. Matthews has attended board meetings and informed the board that his church, Kingdom Vision International, is interested in the property as well. The church has not submitted an official bid to the district.
While an asking price cannot be disclosed, Spears said he and the board expect fair market value for the property.
"We have agreed that it does not make sense to sell the facility for 18 to 30 cents on the dollar," he said. "While we understand frustrations of the current condition of the facility, we, as stewards of the students and taxpayers, can not rush to make a decision based on pressures being imposed on the school board."
Spears added that the district hopes to be able to put the property back on the tax roll and earn money for years to come.
"Our goal as a school board is to extract as much value as possible for the facility," he said. "In trying to do this, we are working to develop the facility and property, to allow it to be put back on the tax roll, which would benefit not only students in the near future but in the distant future to provide future cash flow to benefit students and taxpayers down the road."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.