The possible purchase of a shuttered middle school was revisited Monday as the Highland Township Board of Trustees approved negotiating with the Huron Valley School District to buy Highland Middle School.
The township board in September voted unanimously to decline purchasing the building, located at 305 N. John Street in Highland, with former township Supervisor Patricia Pilchowski citing maintenance costs as an obstacle.
The township board revisited the issue Monday, Nov. 26 during a special meeting to reconsider purchasing the school. That meeting was spurred by a push from the school district to expedite the sale of the building based on legislation being considered by state lawmakers that could call for a statewide inventory of closed school buildings to be sold or leased to other educational entities.
The township board approved entering negotiations to buy the building by a vote of 4-3, with Supervisor Rick Hamill and Trustees Charles Dittmar, Brian Howe and Russ Tierney voting in favor, and Treasurer Judith Cooper, Clerk Mary McDonell and Trustee Mary Pat Chynoweth voting against.
McDonell said there wasn’t any discussion as to what would be done with the building if it were purchased by the township.
“The supervisor wants the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) to take it over and have it be a business incubator, I believe,” McDonell said. “There’s no indication the DDA will do that, which is one of the reasons I voted no on it. There are too many ‘ifs’ on it for me to support it.”
McDonell said the utility costs are believed to be about $40,000 per year to maintain the shuttered building. Furthermore, she said the school district indicated the building will need roof repairs and other maintenance in the near future.
Hamill couldn’t be reached for comment prior to press time.
The Huron Valley Schools Board of Education voted in March 2011 to close Highland Middle School after the 2010-11 school year, after conducting a building utilization study across the district. At the time, the school had the lowest enrollment of four Huron Valley middle schools and was one of the oldest buildings in the district.