The Plain Dealer published an editorial Sunday that urges the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board to "seriously consider" selling the former Millikin School.
The CH-UH school building that once housed a elementary and preschool closed in 2006 due to low enrollment and has been vacant since.
Mosdos Ohr Hatorah sent proposals to buy the building a few times, and most recently offered the district $550,000.
District officials contend that the building was appraised at $2.4 million in 2005, and Mosdos' price is not fair. They'd rather lease the building until the market stabilizes to ensure that the district and taxpayers get the best value, and said they offered that option to Mosdos.
“… we remain firmly committed to ensuring this community receives fair value for its investment. There is simply no reason for the district to sell this property at an unfairly low price,” said Superintendent Douglas Heuer.
The board put the property up for sale in 2006 and received four offers, Heuer said. At that time, the highest was $500,000. In addition, the board made formal requests for proposals in 2009 and 2011, but no one sent an offer, Heuer said.
Neighbors of the Millikin property and parents whose children attend Mosdos Ohr Hatorah heard that the board was considering leasing the building to a call center, which is what prompted them to speak at a meeting February. Since then, hundreds of people have crowded Cleveland Heights City Council and School Board meetings, urging the district to again put the property up for sale and allow Mosdos to negotiate.
Mosdos officials and supporters said the K-12 private Orthodox Jewish school would put in $1 million to $2 million in renovations, and an operating school in the neighborhood would help increase property values.
“It’s been five years. We’ve been waiting on a decision on a property that, quite honestly, is an eyesore,” said Councilman Jason Stein, whose children attend Mosdos. “On a regular basis, windows are being broken. There’s graffiti there. It’s hurting the residents.”
Since 2008, the Cleveland Heights Police Department has received more than 50 calls and complaints about the site, according to call logs. About a dozen reports indicated people broke windows and put graffiti on the walls, and three were breaking and entering incidents. Most of the calls came in when something triggered the alarm.
City Council members showed their support for the residents, and asked that the board set up special meetings (in addition to regular meetings) to discuss Millikin with residents and council.
The Plain Dealer suggests the district get a new appraisal to find out the current, accurate value of the building, then start the process of selling it.
"It looks awful. Its 11-acre site is pocked with broken asphalt, dotted with peeling paint and haunted by the ghost of an uprooted playground. Its neighbors deserve better," the editorial board wrote. "The mystery of the board's reluctance to part with the property deepens when one considers that the district is studying the possible closure of as many as six of its seven elementary schools."
We've ran several articles and letters to the editor about the controversy as well. See our coverage below, read the Plain Dealer editorial, and then tell us, what do you think the CH-UH School Board should do? Take our poll below and share your thoughts in the comments.