School board members met at the former Austintown Middle School/Fitch building on Mahoning Avenue on May 1 to address the sale of the structure. The board approved the sale to LRC Development Company at the last school board meeting for a sum of $2.5 million.
"After several months of negotiations, the Board of Education passed a resolution on April 23 to enter into a sales agreement with LRC Development Company," said Director of Facilities Mal Culp.
Board member Harold Porter said the agreement should soon be signed and LRC will put up a $25,000 deposit. The company will then have 180 days to acquire the permits, zoning, inspections, and a contract with the primary resident that it will need to develop the property. After that occurs, the school district will receive the balance of the sale.
The former AMS and Fitch facility was opened in 1916 and served as Fitch High School until 1968 when the new Fitch building opened off Raccoon Road. The school then became Austintown Middle School until it was closed in 2007 when the new AMS was opened on the Fitch campus.
In the fall of 2010, the building was appraised and put up for public auction. The school board had set the minimum selling price at $2 million and held a public sale.
"A public auction was held in September of 2010 with much interest, but short of the minimum selling price," Culp said.
It sat empty for two more years until the fall of 2012 when two parties demonstrated interest in the property. One of those parties was LRC.
According to Colaluca, LRC claimed to have a possible client lined up for the property, but would not disclose who it was. They proceeded to pursue the purchase and now are just days from signing the purchase agreement.
"We have the contract agreed to," Culp said. "We are just waiting on the signatures to finalize it."
He said the property is 15 acres with access from Mahoning Avenue and Fitch Boulevard.
"The access would make it easy for deliveries," Culp said.
As for the sale amount, Superintendent Vince Colaluca said the $2.5 million would go into the district's capital improvement funds and, by law, could only be used for improvements that would last over five years. He said none of it could be used for the district's general operating funds.
Culp said one thing that has been put into the agreement will be the removal and preservation of the three large "Fitch" stones that are over the entrances. Those stones will be saved and used in an upcoming project at Falcon Stadium that honors former students who served in the Vietnam War.
"Even if the sale weren't to happen, the stones will be saved," Culp said.