Amherstburg seeks arbiter’s decision on school price
The Town of Amherstburg will ask an arbitrator to decide on a fair price for the shuttered St. Bernard elementary school.
Frustrated by the negotiation process with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, town council unanimously voted earlier this week to seek an arbiter’s help.
“We’ve put them on notice,” said CAO John Miceli, who didn’t like the board’s appraised value of $650,000. “I didn’t agree with the instructions they gave the appraiser,” he said. “None of it addressed continued public use.”
So the town got its own appraisal based on the building ’s continued public use as a community hub for seniors and it came in at $360,000.
Miceli submitted an offer of $360,000 which the board countered at $750,000.
“That’s $100,000 greater than their own market value,” Miceli said.
He charges that the board is going against its own policy and provincial policy when it comes to disposing of surplus assets at fair market value.
“It’s complete disregard for the rate payers of Amherstburg,” he said. “I feel there’s a lack of cooperation, a lack of transparency.”
Miceli said this is Amherstburg ’s first attempt at buying property from the Catholic board.
“We just don’t discuss property matters in public,” said board spokesman Stephen Fields. “There’s a process and with ongoing negotiations, we maintain confidentiality out of respect for the process.”
It is uncertain whether this will be the board’s first involvement with an arbitrator over a property matter. Neither Fields or recently retired director of education Paul Picard can recall needing an arbiter in past negotiations.
A representative with the Ministry of Education said the ministry is not involved in the arbitration process. “If no agreement on price is reached, the purchasing party can request arbitration,” said ministry spokeswoman Heather Irwin. “This request must be within the 30-day negotiation period. The ministry has no role in the arbitration process.”
St. Bernard was closed to students in June 2016. Under provincial guidelines, other local school boards have first bidding rights on a closed school followed by the municipality before it is placed on the open market.
Miceli said the school would be “a prime use for us as a community hub for seniors. They’re the fastest growing population in our town.”
He feels the lack of negotiations “lies with the director of education. If you look at their policy online, the person who is accountable is the director of education.”
Terry Lyons took over as director earlier this month following the retirement of Picard.
Fields said Lyons was in all-day meetings in Toronto Tuesday.