ST.The Town of Waverly is fed up with the smashed glass, graffiti-scrawled doors and boarded-up windows at the old St. Regis Falls Central School.
But an appeal for help to Franklin County officials went nowhere recently, as legislators said it's the town's problem, not theirs.
The 87,000-square-foot building at the corner of Main Street and Norton Avenue has been vacant since 1999, after district voters agree to construct a new pre-K-to-12 building about a quarter-mile away.
SOLD IN 2003
Bids were sought on the old school building for two years until the School Board agreed in 2002 to sell the place for $38,000 to investors represented at the time of the sale by Michael Aylward of Constable.
A deed was recorded with the Franklin County Clerk's Office Nov. 26, 2003, conveying the property from the School District to Ferncroft Holding LLC, making it the owner of the 9.26-acre property.
Records states $10,000 was paid for it; the property was assessed at $83,800.
PLANS FALL THROUGH
The plan of the reported international group of investors was to use the facility to grown hydroponic vegetables and operate a fish hatchery that would raise 500,000 pounds of fish a year, as well as lobster.
But that never materialized, and the site has been vacant ever since.
The town condemned the building in November 2007, and the doors are chained shut.
A letter to legislators from Town Supervisor Michael Bailey paints a grim picture of the school's deterioration.
Bailey said many townspeople opposed the construction of the new school because "we knew nothing would be done with the old school. There was no way a legitimate business would purchase the old school."
In his letter, the supervisor said the owners "made sure the assessed value was kept quite high" so it could be used as collateral for $400,000 in loans for the hydroponics project."
But the only money the town has seen from the entire transaction was $45 for a water bill payment "which leaves a balance of several thousand owed in back taxes," Bailey said.
Officials in the County Treasurer's Office said taxes have not been paid on the property since 2004, and the owners owe $433,747 from 2005 to the present.
The town has been stuck since then, knowing the county has "no intention of taking possession of this horrible eyesore in the middle of St. Regis Falls."
Bailey said District Attorney Derek Champagne gave the town $800 to board the windows, but since then "the building has become more unsafe, unhealthy and insecure.
"This old school is a clear and present danger to our townspeople, and the Town of Waverly cannot solve this problem by itself."
During a brief discussion when the letter was brought up, Legislator Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake) said, "We don't own the building, so there is almost nothing we can do."
Legislators Earl Lavoie (D-Malone) said the county sympathizes with the problem, but if it helped one community, with a situation like this it would have to help every town.
The Treasurer's Office said a notation on the records indicates there is an unspecified environmental concern with the school property, which could be why the county does not want to take title to the place for the back taxes.
Aylward has left the area and could not be reached for comment.
E-mail Denise A. Raymo at: email@example.com