FONDA - A volunteer group in the village of Canajoharie can go ahead with efforts to rehabilitate the former West Hill School in the village now that the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has rejected a bid received at the county's recent foreclosure auction.
"We've got a group in the village that's expressed an interest in the building, to restore it for the landmark that it is," Root Supervisor John Thayer said. Thayer is chairman of the board's Finance Committee.
Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery and village lawyer Charles Tallent are trying to form a not-for-profit group to come up with a plan for the building. The group they want to form would be independent of the village, Avery said.
They are reaching out to potential volunteers, he said.
"Mayor Avery has been clear; the village is not involved," Minden Supervisor Thomas L. Quackenbush said. "A small group wants to take it."
Thayer said the group needs to give the Board of Supervisors a letter of intent by June 15.
"Once we have that, the process can continue," he said.
Avery and Tallent say they have no specific plans for the building yet. They will seek grants to put a roof on the building and stabilize the structure.
Rachel Yerdon of Sprakers submitted a bid of $8,500 for the property at the May 16 auction of tax-delinquent properties. Thayer originally said he wanted supervisors to reject the bid because it wouldn't come close to covering the back taxes of nearly $70,000 owed on the property.
"The bid was $8,500, which is a drop in the bucket," Thayer said. "The property was tax-exempt for practically its whole life, since it was a school. In the grand scheme of things, the taxes aren't the issue."
Allowing the village to take possession of the property would benefit everyone concerned, Thayer said.
"Let the village take it over," he said at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting. "That takes the county out of liability. It's fair to both sides. If you want the building, all you have to do is take it."
The West Hill School property was originally slated to be sold at the tax auction in 2011, but it was withdrawn because of issues with creditors. The foreclosure remained in effect, and the parcel was added to this year's auction.
The school, a limestone structure designed by architect Archimedes Russell, was built in 1892. The school was closed in June 2002 when the elementary school moved to a new wing on the Canajoharie Central School campus.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 2002.
The property was auctioned on eBay in 2004. School House Lofts, a Massachusetts-based company that converts old school buildings into condominiums, paid $155,000 for the property, but sold it in 2005 to Zdzislaw "George" Czachor for $250,000, according to records in the Montgomery County Clerk's office. Czachor, who lives in Brooklyn, did nothing with the building.
John R. Becker covers Montgomery County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.