Bell-Avon Elementary building, contents go up for bid
By Braden Ashe
Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
The Kiski Area School District's auction of the shuttered Bell-Avon Elementary School on Saturday will close one chapter of Bell Township's history and open another.
The district will begin accepting on-site bids at 9 a.m. for the building's contents, which range from kitchen appliances to small classroom items. The actual building, along with the property's mineral rights, will be auctioned off at noon.
Peggy Gillespie, Kiski Area School District business manager, said there will be a moderate reserve price on the building, but wouldn't disclose the amount.
“It's very reasonable,” she said. “You couldn't pave a parking lot with what we're asking for it.”
J Dunmire Auction Service of Saltsburg is running the auction.
Owner Julie Dunmire wouldn't say what potential buyers planned to use the property for, but said other auctioned school buildings have been converted to storage facilities, senior care centers, community recreation centers and housing facilities.
After one of her school auctions, the buyer demolished the building and scrapped its materials.
A potential buyer for this auction has expressed interest in converting the building into a post-graduate technical school, according to Dunmire manager Evelyn Cribbs. She wouldn't identify the interested party, but said he's a “well-known buyer from Blairsville.”
The total value of the items inside the building falls between $15,000 and $20,000, according to Dunmire. Notable items include commercial kitchen equipment, lockers, desks, metal and wooden chairs, sodium lighting fixtures and a large 1950s scoreboard that still works in the school's gymnasium.
An auction preview was held Thursday to showcase the available items.
For some, it was an opportunity to survey what the auction had to offer. For others, it was a chance to walk through the halls of their alma mater one last time.
Filled with memories
A nostalgic Cliff Andree of Avonmore attended the preview to find any keepsake items he could take away from his alma mater at the auction.
He belongs to the final graduating class of 1962. It was used solely as an elementary school after that.
“I figured I might find something I would need to have,” he said, scanning the hundreds of items stacked in the old gymnasium. “I remember student-faculty games here that were so packed you couldn't stand. It's sad to see it go.”
The Bell Township Historical and Preservation Society also didn't want to let the school go without a souvenir. Several of its members were there Thursday to collect two trophy cases, from 1943 and 1951, that the school district donated.
President Steve Nelson, whose mother was part of the school's first graduating class in 1940, said the trophy cases will help keep the school's memory alive.
“Anytime you lose a school in the community with so much history, it's sad because you can't get it back,” he said. “Hopefully, the historical society can help the younger generations see what this school was like. It was such a part of the town's culture.”
Dunmire said she'll allot about 15 minutes during the auction for graduates to gather in the gymnasium and sing their alma mater together one last time.
“I think that will provide people with a sense of closure,” she said. “It also gets people in the buying mood.”
The prices for bulk items like chairs will be set by the highest bid on a single chair. The winning bidder can buy as many as they want at that price, followed by the runner-up and so on.
No one at Thursday's preview expressed interest in bidding on the actual building, but Gillespie said it's drawn interest from several developers.
The Bell-Avon Elementary School building, which dates to the early 1930s, was closed after the 2012-13 school year as part of the district's reconfiguration of its elementary schools.
Another auction preview will be held at 7 a.m. Saturday before the auction.
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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