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Waverly officials ponder what to do with former school

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ST. REGIS FALLS – The Waverly Town Council may finally have a solution to a problem that has plagued the town for 11 years – what to do with the former St. Regis Falls Central School building – but town officials are not yet ready to accept a deal from Franklin County legislators.

At Monday’s council meeting, Councilman Harold Goodrow told his colleagues the county offered to forgive the taxes owed on the property if the town will take possession of the building and put it up for bid. The property is currently privately owned but has sat vacant for 11 years, as the town has tried to figure out what to do with it.

Mr. Goodrow said a stipulation of the deal is that whoever puts in the winning bid would have a certain number of days to do some kind of work on the building or the town would take possession of it again, and he feels prospective buyers should state their intentions with the property when they submit their bid.

“There are three individuals that would like to bid it,” Mr. Goodrow said. “I think we need to think about it for a little bit.”

Should the buyer default on the stipulation, Mr. Goodrow said he believes the town could take possession of and apply for a grant to do something with the building. The individual who purchases the building may also be able to apply for a grant, he added.

The town cannot apply for a grant right now because it does not have the deed to the property, but it would obtain the deed through the agreement with the county. Mr. Goodrow said, however, he wants to see a citizen take control of the building.

“It’s a lot nicer if an individual owns it rather than the township,” he said.

Mr. Goodrow and other town officials said, however, they are wary of what county legislators are proposing because, while the town and county both want to see something done with the building, in the town’s opinion, the county appears to be putting the issue on the town’s back.

“They (county) don’t want to take possession of it,” Mr. Goodrow said, reiterating that the council should think about the deal some more. “They say you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but I think we should look this one in the mouth.”

Mr. Goodrow also said, though, that it appears something may be done with a problem that has plagued the town for so long. He noted taxpayers in Waverly and elsewhere in the county are unfairly made responsible for making up for the taxes that are not paid by the property’s current owner.

“This guy has defaulted for 11 years,” he said of the property’s current owner, who owes approximately $600,000 in back taxes. “This guy hasn’t done a darn thing. He hasn’t done anything for 11 years.”

Mr. Goodrow did not immediately return a message seeking further comment Thursday.

Legislator Sue Robideau (R-Brushton), whose district includes Waverly, said she was unable to attend last week’s county legislature meeting, but there was a meeting with County Treasurer Bryon Varin that may have involved the old school building. Mr. Varin could not be reached for comment Thursday.

While Ms. Robideau said she did not know any details of the discussion or of the proposed plan, she said she would “be willing to help move it forward” if it is something the town council supports and is interested in.

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