Tim Baker of DeVoss, Johnson, Zwick, Baker and Ainsworth Law Firm in Decatur has been chosen to advise the South Adams Schools Board in the appraisal and sale of the former Berne elementary school property.
Board members approved a motion at the November meeting for Acting Superintendent Scott Litwiller to seek legal counsel to represent the school corporation during that process rather than the schools' attorney, Jim Beitler, because of a potential conflict of interest.
Baker, the Decatur City Attorney, explained during Tuesday's meeting at South Adams that the school corporation first needs to identify how it will sell the property — as one parcel of land or divided into two or more parcels of land to be sold separately.
He also explained that the next step would be to have the parcel(s) surveyed, because the survey can make a difference in how the parcel(s) is/are appraised. Additionally, because the property was recently rezoned from residential to commercial, it is necessary to present preliminary plans to the Berne Plan Commission to allow for input on design and use.
Baker explained that the school corporation may choose to donate the property or sell it at a minimal cost to a charitable organization. If the board decides against that option, it can sell the property at auction, through sealed bids, or sell it for economic development purposes and negotiate a price with the buyer directly.
Board member Tony Mellencamp asked for clarification as to why it is important to move on selling the property sooner rather than later.
South Adams' newest board member, real estate agent Amy Orr said, "I think we would be better serving the taxpayers by selling the property and getting what we can out of it to help pay off some of our debt rather than waiting for some indefinite time to come when the market will be better."
She added that she believes the school corporation would receive the most money by dividing the property rather than selling it as one parcel.
John Mann agreed and suggested that the property be split into two equal parcels from east to west thus creating a north section and a south section. He added that he thinks it would be beneficial if people who bid on the property could bid on one of the parcels or both of the parcels together.
Board members passed a resolution of intent to sell the property in two parcels as Mann proposed, subject to approval by the Berne Plan Commission or subject to any Berne Plan Commission requirements. They also directed Litwiller to designate the two required appraisers.