• 61°

OSD votes against elementary school sale amidst budget concerns

The Oxford School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reject all bids for the Oxford Elementary School property during Monday night’s meeting.

In lieu of selling the property to the City of Oxford to be repurposed into a police station, the board members chose to keep the property and use the building as an administrative office complex once the new elementary school is built.

The reason, according to superintendent Brian Harvey, is due to budgetary concerns over two of the district’s planned projects, an administrative building and a baseball and softball complex.

“We have bid two of our projects out with the current bond campaign that we have. With both of those projects, we’ve had to reject bids that were over the amount that was allocated in the bond referendum,” Harvey said. “My recommendation to reject the bids is based on [the district’s decision to] not pursue the administration building at this time, and we can look at that only after what we promised to the public in the bond campaign is complete.”

Harvey added that, although OSD hasn’t spent any money on either project yet, the projected construction costs are $1.5 million more than originally predicted.

OSD administrators will have what Harvey described as an “extended stay” in the OES building, something he said was inevitable after speaking with construction manager Casey Rogers and the architect for the projects.

“It was fairly plain to me that we were going to be forced to make a choice at the end of this project, either building the administration building or building the baseball and softball complex,” Harvey said. “And I don’t think that’s a position I want to be in, and I don’t think that’s a position the board wants to be in.”

According to Harvey, the $2.1 million bid the city of Oxford made for the property would not be as beneficial to the district as keeping the building in the long run.

Earlier this month, the city announced its intent to repurpose the OES property into a new station for the Oxford Police Department, which is overcrowded in its current location according to Mayor Robyn Tannehill and Chief Joey East. Doing so, Tannehill said in a recent meeting, would allow the city to have the new police station without raising taxes.

After OSD made a motion to postpone the acceptance or rejection of bids during its June 12 meeting of the board of trustees, Tannehill and the Board of Aldermen said they were not sure what the school district’s decision would be.

However, Alderman Janice Antonow said the decision to not sell at all, and the rationale behind it, was one for which she was not prepared.

“We hadn’t heard of this before tonight,” Antonow said. “This is new information.”

OSD board president Gray Edmondson reaffirmed Harvey’s recommendation, adding that talks about the decision were happening as late as Monday afternoon prior to the meeting.

“In discussing this with our architect and Casey Rogers, they affirmed that we will likely need the money we would spend on the administrative building during the construction process,” Edmondson said. “So, if we accept the bids, we run the real risk of losing the baseball and softball complex, or doing it at a much reduced quality.”

Harvey closed the discussion by echoing his sentiments that the decision to reject bids for the OES property and keeping it in the school district’s possession is not one the board made lightly, but it was necessary nonetheless.

The board’s capital improvement plan shows the addition of a baseball and softball complex, and Harvey said he wanted to make it happen.

“In any sale of property within the district, the board has to make a finding that it is no longer needed for school use,” Harvey said. “I can’t make a recommendation that Oxford Elementary will not be used as an administration building for the district in the coming years.”

For more information, visit http://oxfordsd.org.