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Offer on table for former Highlands School District administration building

| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 12:56 a.m.

The Highlands School Board has buyers for the former administration building but isn't quite ready to sign on the dotted line.

Board Solicitor Lisa Colautti told the board on Monday night that two Harrison residents, John F. Barch and Joseph Thimons, submitted a proposal to buy the building, which the district vacated last year.

Attempts to reach the men for comment were unsuccessful. Colautti said Thimons is not related to board member Laura Thimons.

Colautti said the proposal, submitted through Czekalski Real Estate Inc., offers $145,000 for the structure, which is in a residential neighborhood on 11th Avenue in Harrison.She said Barch and Thimons indicated that the property would be used for elder care or a day care and that they would renovate the structure.

The board has asked for strict assurances that the property would not be used for low-income, Section 8 federal housing, and Colautti said the proposed agreement acknowledges that.

“Nothing prohibits them from selling this the day after the closing, and that buyer would not be bound by the agreement,” she said.

The district has agreed not to contest an appeal of the property's county assessment, Colautti said. She said the last assessment set the value of the property at more than $1 million.

Colautti said the district would likely have no interest in contesting the appeal. If it is successful, the assessment likely would be readjusted upward once renovations are completed.

Board member Ryan Hanford expressed reservations about the proposal.

“I think $145,000 is too low for that,” he said. However, attempts to sell the building, which once was Riverview Elementary School, yielded few offers.

Hanford said he would like Barch and Thimons to attend a board meeting to answer questions the board might have.

The rest of the board agreed with him. Colautti said she would ask the men to attend next Monday's regular board meeting.

Heights Elementary update

Colautti told the board that the agreement of sale for the Heights Elementary School is up for an extension.

She said RBG Development, which emerged in fall 2012 as a buyer for the former school on Freeport Road, is making progress on the project for which it wants to use the property.

RBG has an agreement with the district to buy the property for $1 million, contingent on obtaining the needed zoning approvals.

It intends to build a CVS pharmacy/retail store and a Sheetz gas station/convenience store.

Colautti said a traffic study is under way. It has to be done before PennDOT will approve the installation of a traffic light at Freeport Road and California Avenue that is essential to the project.She said CVS and Sheetz have retained their own zoning experts and are moving ahead with getting the required zoning approvals from Harrison officials.

The board will consider extending the agreement at next week's board meeting.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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