Batavia school maintenance building: Fix old, rent-to-own from former school board president?

  • The Batavia school district is considering leasing this building at 804 Main St., and perhaps eventually buying it, for use as a maintenance facility.

      The Batavia school district is considering leasing this building at 804 Main St., and perhaps eventually buying it, for use as a maintenance facility. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/12/2014 6:13 PM

Should the Batavia school district make do with its current maintenance building, or move the operation off-site on a lease-to-own plan?

And does it matter that the former school board president owns the potential new site?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The school board will discuss all this on Sept. 23. It was supposed to vote on the lease last week, but postponed it because of a procedural delay.

School district officials propose buying 804 Main St., one of two Vandee buildings. The company, formally known as Vandeventer Manufacturing, makes precision metal machine parts.

Former school board President Ron Link is president and co-owner of the company, where he has worked for 38 years He also works for Laub Construction of Batavia.

Link was on the school board for 12 years, stepping down last year.

The district is considering renting the 58-year-old building, with an option to buy it after 10 years. It would spend about $1.66 million to renovate it, including putting in new water and sewer lines and humidity control. The building is bigger than the current maintenance building.

Link said Friday that school district officials approached him about leasing. Vandee doesn't need as much space to make parts, due to increases in automation, he said.

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The building is four blocks east of Batavia High School, where the current maintenance building is. A plan to improve the school's fields calls for tearing the building down to make room for more parking.

District officials say the maintenance building, a pole barn put up in 1968 to house school buses, needs about $135,000 of repair work to comply with health and safety codes. A larger facility could allow the addition of a welding shop, now done outside. Lifts could be installed to allow district workers to repair larger vehicles in-house, too.

The district could also store paper in a humidity-controlled environment in a new maintenance building, and buy paper in larger quantities at lower unit prices, according to Kris Monn, the district's assistant superintendent for finance.

Some residents have, however, questioned the necessity of the athletic fields work and a new maintenance building. District officials have said the expected life of a pole-barn building is just over 51 years, and that none of the repairs is related to extending the life of the building.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sylvia Keppel, a founder of the Batavia Taxes watchdog group, has pointed out the building won't necessarily collapse the day after it turns 51. Also it's been deemed structurally sound. A small welding shop could be added on, she said.

The district is asking voters in November for permission to borrow $15 million, much of which would be used on upgrading the stadium, including installing artificial turf. The question calls for repaying the loan out of operating funds.

Some residents also question why the district didn't solicit bids or proposals for a replacement building. District officials have said they looked at buildings in the industrial parks on the northeast side of Batavia. But they felt those were too far away from schools, especially the heaviest user of maintenance equipment, the high school.

"It is kind of a tough thing," Link said. "I know I would never get special consideration, but don't hold it (his school-board service) against me either."

"And in a small town like Batavia, somebody always knows somebody."

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