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Council workshop to discuss possibilities for sale of former Lowry Middle School

The North Tonawanda City School District has agreed to meet with the Common Council and the city's economic development director to discuss the sale of the former Lowry Middle School during the Council's workshop meeting tonight.

The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.

This decision came after the School Board approved a resolution to put all three sale proposals in the North Tonawanda Public Library for public display after a request from the Common Council during a special meeting Friday night.

The Payne Avenue school closed about two years ago and has been up for sale since last November. The district has the option of selling it for $725,000 to Peregrine Inc., a Syracuse developer interested in creating senior housing; $700,000 to Gersh Academy, which would use the property as a college for students with neurobiological disorders; or $775,000 to Savarino Construction, an Amherst company also interested in creating senior housing.

"We all want to put this thing to the voters," Board member Joseph Stringaro said. "It's up to the public to decide if we can sell the building or not. This way, let the voters decide what to put in there."

David P. Rechin said the board needs to do more work first.

"I think it's the responsibility of the board to weigh all the proposals and present to the community what the best solution is," Rechin said. "Then certainly it's our responsibility to explain how we arrived at the solution."

Last week, the Common Council passed a resolution calling for the School Board to make the sale proposals available for the public to view.

"I thought this was the right way for them to go," Council President Brett Sommer said. "I hope this is the start of an open and honest dialogue. We're not trying to tell them what to do."

Sommer said he wants the board to have the benefit of working with the city's economic development director and Niagara County Economic Development Agency to discuss which proposal works best for the city.

Gersh Academy, which is nonprofit, won't contribute much to the city's property tax whereas the Peregrine could be more profitable for the city, Sommer said.

"[Peregrine] would probably stand to $300,000 in taxes, as far as we know," Sommer said, "versus nothing" for Gersh Academy.

In either case, the School Board hopes to decide at its meeting Oct. 11 whether to put just one proposal up for a vote or all three.

"It will be interesting to see how many people will be there to speak," Rechin said of next month's meeting. "We'll get views of the developers, the views of the public and the views of the Common Council. But ultimately we've got to decide what were going to do."

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