Judge approves $1.7 million sale of former Ligonier Valley school
A Westmoreland County judge gave formal approval Tuesday to the $1.7 million sale of the defunct Laurel Valley Middle/High School to a firm with plans to lease the building for use as a drug and alcohol treatment center.
President Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. gave the go-ahead for the sale to Western PA Coal Resorts LLC. The Ligonier Valley School Board approved the purchase in April.
The company plans to pen a 20-year lease for the property with Retreat, a firm that operates rehabilitation centers in Lancaster County and Palm Beach County, Fla. The school building is about 12 miles north of Ligonier on Route 711.
The proposal has drawn mixed reaction in the community. Some would like to have the property returned to the tax rolls, while others are concerned about the impact of an addiction treatment center in the area.
In rubber-stamping the deal, McCormick said, “there appears to be no evidence for me not to approve the sale. It appears the school district and its representatives have done their due diligence.”
McCormick heard testimony from two real estate brokers — Anthony Ferry of Keller Williams Realty of Pittsburgh and Donald Kramer of Berkshire Hathaway Preferred Realty in Ligonier — called by school district solicitor Dennis Rafferty.
Although they were not involved in the sale, Ferry and Kramer said the district received a “fair and reasonable” price for the two parcels that total 66 acres and the school building, which was closed in June 2010.
Kramer said that in today's real estate market, “(school properties) can be very difficult to sell ... kind of a white elephant. There are few businesses that have a use for them."
District Superintendent Christine Oldham testified Western PA Coal Resorts' offer for the property was the first received in the four years the school district attempted to sell it.
School board Vice President Jack McDowell said the district has spent at least $70,000 annually in maintenance costs related to the closed building and property. He added that the firm anticipates hiring about 100 people the first year of operation and as many as 200 thereafter.
Although several residents spoke against the sale at public meetings this year, no one appeared at the hearing Tuesday to oppose the sale.
Rafferty said the board was required under state School Code to seek a judge's approval because it was a private sale.
Paul Peirce is a reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-850-2860.