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Schooling for the school; repositioning for agriculture, arts, high tech and lodging?

By Fritz Mayer
December 7, 2011

Now that developer Ilwon Kang is out of the picture for good, members of the community and the school board are once again discussing the future of the Narrowsburg School building. The board of the Sullivan West Central School district would very much like to sell the building and the 14 acres of land across the street. They have issued a request for proposals to real estate professionals to actively market the building, and will select a realtor on December 22.

About a year ago, when Kang put in a bid to buy the building, along with the former Delaware Valley school, there was a competing bid from Dick Riseling, who proposed using the building for a community center that would involve arts and agricultural uses. That general idea, with some variations, has resurfaced among a group of residents, who held meetings on December 2 and 3, to discuss bringing to fruition the repurposing of the school building.

Possible uses included a mixed-use building that would involve an agricultural element, the arts, a boutique hotel, a digital video production facility and a business incubator. The question behind all of those, however, is who is going to buy the building, how much it will cost, and who will pay for its maintenance.

The school has been appraised at $700,000 and the board would like to sell it for as much as possible. The board could decide to sell it for less than market value if it were to sell it to a municipality, such as the Town of Tusten, if the matter were put to a referendum and if 60% of the voters approved of the plan.

Tusten board member Carol Wingert, who will become the supervisor of the town in January, said, “A lot of people want the town to take over the building, and the town to own the building. Great concept; if its given to us, if we have a business plan [from some entity] that can succeed, the town can then get rid of it, make money, wonderful. But the maintenance of it, to keep it going, to keep it alive? The town can’t afford it, period.” The cost of maintaining the building was estimated to be $6,000 per month.

A group of area residents, assembled by Kevin Vertrees, has a mission of creating a specific business plan that can be presented to investors, and to look into options as to the kind of entity that would be needed to put in a bid to acquire the school. One plan discussed involved creating a limited liability corporation that would work with one of several existing non-profit 501c3 groups in the area.