School board picks realtor to sell former Fort Stanwix school

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Although some members voted in opposition, the Board of Education has selected a real estate company to market the former Fort Stanwix school, and approved school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake’s participation in a national research program.

In the actions Thursday night:

• The board voted 8-1 to select Pyramid Brokerage Co. Inc. through a request for proposals (RFP) process, involving real estate services for marketing of the Fort Stanwix school site for sale or transfer of it.

The vote followed an approximately 30-minute closed executive session including attorney Colleen Heinrich of the Ferrara Fiorenza PC law firm of East Syracuse, the school district’s legal counsel, to discuss a potential sale or lease of property.

Voting against the selection was board member Tanya Davis. She said afterward “we should be doing a better job of working with community partners” on potential reuse of the school site. She also referred to issues with the school district’s “history” in previous efforts to sell former school buildings, and cited the “unique location” of the Fort Stanwix school property at 110 W. Linden St. District officials have noted it is centrally located in the city.

Prior to the vote, Davis said that in the past some “blight and unsightly areas” were created following sales of certain former school buildings; some sales resulted in complications regarding buyers following through on redevelopment plans.

The board at its Aug. 21 meeting had tabled a resolution to select 1st Rome Realty for real estate services involving the Fort Stanwix school site, based on a motion by Davis who said the board should further review how best to market it.

After Thursday night’s vote, board President Stephen P. Hampe said the majority of the board was “ready to proceed” after consulting with the attorney. He said he and several board members took exception to Davis’s “claim that the community hasn’t been involved or consulted” on the matter.

“The board and district administration are always eager to – and regularly do – receive community input and collaborate with stakeholders,” Hampe remarked. The “preliminary step of choosing a Realtor does nothing to prevent such cooperation moving forward.”

Hampe further said it costs about $2,000 a month to “maintain the empty building,” adding “this is only the beginning of the formal process of selling the property.” A community vote to approve a sale eventually would be required, he added.

The change to select Pyramid Brokerage Co. for real estate services was based on “advice of legal counsel” which has worked with several real estate companies in the state, Hampe said. Board member Paul Fitzpatrick said Heinrich referred to the experience that Pyramid Brokerage has had with various commercial properties, adding the legal counsel has previously worked with that company on projects.

Pyramid Brokerage and 1st Rome Realty both submitted proposals through the RFP process, said Hampe, adding that potential real-estate commissions were involved. He could not immediately specify further details.

The Fort Stanwix site was closed as a regular elementary school in 2009, and has had some temporary usage since then.

• A motion for Blake to participate in National Center for Education Research and Technology, Inc. programs was approved 7-2 by the board.

The center links superintendents from throughout the U.S. with leading business practitioners for designing systems to promote leadership, research and technology practices to enhance student success, said the resolution. The center’s national directors and advisors nominated the Rome district to participate, added the resolution, which further stated Blake would participate in educational technology and research activities, professional development programs and various education and management services.

Voting against the resolution were Davis and Lisa Herbowy. Herbowy asked about the cost for participating in the programs, and Blake said it would be a $7,500 yearly commitment.

Herbowy said afterward she voted against it because of the school district’s latest budget, which includes some layoffs and program cuts. She added that perhaps the program participation would be appropriate for the district “maybe in the future” but “not right now.”

Davis similarly said that due to the district’s current fiscal constraints, she does not think the programs reflect the best use of district resources.

Hampe said Friday the center is “an exclusive organization to which Mr. Blake was nominated by a current member.” He added “it is exciting” that Blake’s work for the Rome district is “receiving national accolades.”

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