The near East side Aurora community center that houses social service agencies such as the Aurora YWCA, Triple Threat Mentoring and Communities in Schools could soon become property of East Aurora School District 131 if the city council approves an agreement for the sale of the building.
Aldermen began discussions Tuesday about the possibility of selling the Fred Rodgers Community Center at 501 College Ave. to the district for $3 million.
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The district already rents space in the building for a magnet school, which it hopes to expand. Buying the existing Fred Rodgers center would be a cheaper way to expand the program than constructing an entirely new facility, school board President Annette Johnson said.
"We are satisfied with that price," said Annette Johnson, District 131 school board president. "It provides us a solution to build a (magnet) school and decrease the population at our other schools."
But Alderman Rick Lawrence, who often questions city expenditures, this time questioned why the city proposes to charge the district $3 million instead of donating the building for school use. He said he does not support city ownership of facilities such as the Fred Rodgers center in the first place, but charging District 131 $3 million prevents that money from being spent on education.
Mayor Tom Weisner said it's not the city's role to subsidize education in that way.
"The point really is we have our constituents, they have theirs," Weisner said. "We have a concurrence on that value."
Aurora also has five other school districts within its borders, so setting a precedent of donating buildings would put the city at risk of other school districts seeking similar treatment, Alderman Lynda Elmore said.
"That's why we need to negotiate a fair price," Chief Management Officer Carie Anne Ergo said.
If the city council approves the sale, which could happen during a vote scheduled for Tuesday, June 12, the building's ownership could change by the end of summer, Ergo said.
The school district would assume leases with the eight other tenants renting space in the building. The district then could negotiate a timeline for the tenants to vacate their offices.
"Returning it to a school use seemed to be the best and highest use for the property at this time," Ergo said.