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Site of former Algonquin Elementary will be sold

Vacated school site valued at $1.6 million

Sept. 27, 2007

Residents attending the Brown Deer School District's annual meeting authorized the School Board to begin the process of selling the now-empty Algonquin Elementary School building.

The board in May agreed to close the 49-year-old facility at 7841 N. 47th St. due to skyrocketing repair costs. Tending to the school's roof, alarm system and boiler pump would have cost more than $500,000, according to estimates.

"For various reasons, the school was not adequate to serve children," District Administrator Deb Kerr said. "We want to reflect on the pride and tradition (of Algonquin), but I think we need to take a step forward for the community."

Algonquin students were transferred to Dean Elementary School this fall. Modular units were installed to accommodate the extra student population.

Asbestos concerns remain

What remains uncertain is whether the building will be demolished prior to selling the land.

The board in August directed the Plunkett Raysich architectural firm to put together a bidding package to firms that would be able to demolish the building. The cost of Plunkett's services is not to exceed $16,000.

The Algonquin property is zoned for single-family residential use. Appraisal firm Moegenburg Research Inc. has valued the site at $1.6 million.

"We are in the process of trying to facilitate two more appraisal options on the property," Business Manager Edward Towle said.

At this point, there are a host of unknowns with the property, which was a reason Plunkett was brought on to offer advice, Towle said.

"What is really critical is what we'll do from an environmental standpoint," he said. "There is asbestos at Algonquin that needs to be disposed of. It's much more complex than just taking a bulldozer and razing that building."

Towle said efforts will be made to sell property that remains at Algonquin or to repurpose it within the district. The list of salvageable items includes doors, kitchen equipment, classroom supplies and chalkboards.

"That will be revenue that will be put back in the general fund," Towle said.

Putting property to use

About 25 residents attended the Sept. 11 annual meeting. Many were in favor of having the district sell the property. However, there was some dissention as to whether the building should be bulldozed or sold as-is.

The board has largely supported selling the property with the assumption that the land could be used to construct new homes in Brown Deer.

"It does make a lot of sense to put that property to use in the village," School Board President Dennis Griffin said.

But some residents, including Brown Deer's former Village President Margaret Jaberg, said a wait-and-see approach should be adopted before the building is taken down.

More recently, Jaberg said there have been a record number of foreclosures and buying is at a stalemate.

"The housing market just isn't what it was a couple of years ago," she said.

As an alternative, Jaberg suggested the board hold off on razing Algonquin until a buyer is named.

During her tenure as president and a role on the village's Community Development Authority, Jaberg was part of an effort to raze the former Kohl's Food Store building at 43rd Street and Bradley Avenue, but only after a suitor - Tri City - was apparent.

Other residents criticized the board for exploring the feasibility of demolishing Algonquin before a decision was made by the electorate to proceed with the sale.

But Griffin defended the board's decision, noting that neither he nor his elected colleagues are experts in real estate.

"We're trying to spend the money (on the Plunkett study) to make sure it's done the right way," Griffin said. "This is insurance for us and offers protection."

Board member Dennis Lowder said selling the property with the building standing in its current state could result in liability concerns if someone were to get hurt on the site.

"Being practical, you just can't sell the property as-is," he said.

Dave Fidlin can be reached at dfidlin@cninow.com or (262) 446-6603.

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