Pike BOE delays sale of old Post Office

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Managing Editor

Jan. 25, 2000 10 PM

The Pike County Board of Education has temporarily stalled a move to sell the old Troy Post Office Building located downtown based on a request from interested members of the community and officials with the Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

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A group interested in preservation of the building requested that the board put the brakes on selling the old Post Office until members could organize and begin to push for funds to help pay for the property which has been assessed at $90,000.

According to a letter submitted to Pike County Superintendent of Education Dr. John Key, the Pike County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors wants to propose a plan that would allow the city of Troy to acquire the property and renovate it for public use.

John Hiebel, vice chairman of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, signed the letter

"We want to get a proposal together and we need some time to do that," Hiebel said.

Backed by members of the Troy Downtown Revitalization Committee, Hiebel wrote in the letter that potential sources for grants have been targeted as a potential way to raise funds to save the building from being auctioned by the Pike County Board of Education.

"In order for these funds to be available, application must be made by March 1, 2000," Hiebel wrote.

Because of the tight deadline, the letter requested that the Pike County Board of Education, as owner of the building, make the request for the grant. Legwork for the proposal and the specific parameters of the request will be handled by the Downtown Revitalization Committee, Hiebel wrote.

"We only ask the Board to serve as the fiscal agent for the grant," the letter continued.

The board granted the request, according to Key, in the hopes that the building can be sold for a fair price by the Board of Education and can be used in the future to serve the people of Pike County.

The building came under the ownership of the Board of Education when it was donated almost 20 years ago, he said.

"The original intent of the (Pike County Board of Education) was to renovate the building and use it for a central office, but there were not enough square feet to meet our needs," Key said. "We would have had to add another level, which would have put costs – conservatively – at between $200,000 and $300,000 and that was in the early 1980s."

The building went on to house juvenile court for a period of time before becoming the print shop for the school system. Now, though, the property is in such a state of disrepair Key fears holding on to it.

"It needs maintenance soon," he said. "If something isn’t done within the next year, it will need major maintenance."

Key said likely maintenance would include caps on the walls and a new roof.

Last year, the Board of Education considered donating the building to the city, but Key said financial issues made the system look at another approach.

"We don’t have the funds to meet our needs, so it’s difficult to give the building away," he said. "At the same time, it’s almost as much a liability as it is an asset, so we need to do something."

Key said a best-case scenario would be that school system would make enough money on a potential sale to justify letting go of the building.

"It is an historic building and we don’t want to see it deteriorate," Key said. "But it’s hard for us to give away an asset that has been appraised at $90,000 when we are in need of funds. We have to look at what’s prudent for our taxpayers."

Key said considerations of the building’s historic value weighed against the system’s ownership of the property led the Pike County Board of Education to accept the request for time by the citizens.

Hiebel envisions utilizing the facility as a showcase for the arts in Pike County, if the property can be acquired by the city of Troy.

"Through an arts grant, we could turn the facility into a place where art classes could be held and where artists could display their work," Hiebel said. "This would enhance the building, it would enhance downtown and it would benefit all the citizens of Pike County."

But the legal game of shuffleboard will require a lot of work in order for the building to come under the ownership of the city and for a grant to be obtained to help with the project.

Still, Hiebel feels that more time will help members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and the Troy Council on the Arts and Humanities formulate a plan to save the structure from falling into private hands through a public auction.

Hiebel said the various groups are planning future meetings and he is hopeful that a sound proposal may be made in the near future.