Amher­st­burg seeks ar­biter’s de­ci­sion on school price

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - MARY CA­TON mca­ton@post­media.com

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.

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