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OSD Rejects Land Sale Bid From City of Oxford; Over Budget on Capital Projects

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

The Oxford School Board voted to reject a $2.1 million bid from the city of Oxford for the land where Oxford Elementary currently sits – but not because the bid wasn’t high enough.

OSD Superintendent Brian Harvey said Monday during the Board of Trustee regular meeting that the reason the board voted in executive session to reject all bids on the land was because the school district may still need to use the school for administration offices.
Last year, Oxford residents passed a $38 million bond referendum to build a new Oxford Elementary School next to the current Oxford Intermediate School and several other projects, including renovations to Bramlett Elementary School, Oxford Middle School and Oxford Intermediate School; an Oxford High School fine arts facility, practice gym and additional classrooms; and a baseball/softball complex. The projected cost for all of the projects was $38,018,005.
However, Harvey said bids coming in for the projects are about $1.5 million over budget.
The OSD also planned on building a new OSD administration building on Sisk Avenue in Oxford Commons, near the high school. That project was being funding through the school’s budget and from bond funds.
Harvey said the district may need to use the current Oxford Elementary School for administrative offices after the new elementary school is built. With the other projects coming in over budget, Harvey said the funds targeted for the new administration building may be needed to offset the additional costs.
Harvey said construction on the new administration building will cease immediately.
“Before selling any property, the board has to make a finding that it will no longer be for school use,” Harvey said Monday. “Given the information we have … we’ll need to move into (Oxford Elementary) and use that as central office space.”
The city of Oxford bid on the land in hopes of re-purposing the building into a new Oxford Police Department. The current OPD building was built more than 30 years ago when there were only about 25 officers. Today, there are more than 70 officers in the department.
Aldermen Janice Antonow said she was “disappointed” in the board’s decision and that it was the first time the board heard about the OSD being over budget on their projects.
“The OE building is much bigger than they need for administration offices,” she said after the meeting.
In February, the Board of Trustees voted to put the property out for bid. The bids were opened March 27. The district received bids from Cherie Matthews Real Estate for $1.8 million and the city of Oxford for $2,000,501, making the city the high bidder.
The OSD had the land appraised, which came in at $2.8 million. The city of Oxford’s appraisal was for about $700,000.
Last week during a special called meeting, the Board of Trustees tabled accepting or rejecting the bids, saying they wished to negotiate further with the city in hopes of getting an offer closer to the school district’s appraised value.
Harvey said that after being told by the project architect and construction manager that the district is already $1.5 million over budget in construction costs, it would behoove the district to keep the property for now.
“I don’t know where we’ll be in three years,” he said. “It’s plain to me that we’re going to be forced at the end to make a choice between the baseball/softball complex or the administration building that was promised to the voters in the bond referendum … The $2 million from the sale of the property does not considerably help us out.”

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