MANDATA - Two vacant elementary schools were sold separately Tuesday by the Line Mountain School Board at 83 percent below the combined appraised values.

The Leck Kill and Dalmatia buildings were appraised at a combined $450,000 but sold for $75,322 total.

The two properties were advertised for sale for three weeks in three different newspapers, but only two sealed bids were submitted.

A 7-1-1 vote during Tuesday's school board meeting approved the sale of the Dalmatia building to Jeremy Strohecker for $25,100. It was appraised at $220,000. Directors Troy Laudenslager, Lawrence Neidig, David Bartholomew, Lauren Hackenburg, Ronald Neidig, Marlin Yeager Jr. and Daniel Zablosky were in favor. Dennis Erdman opposed. Lamont Masser abstained.

The sale of the Leck Kill building was approved 8-1, which Erdman also opposed. Jamie Reed bought the property for $50,222. It was appraised at $230,000.

Both deals must be closed within 45 days.

Reed intends to convert the Leck Kill building into a senior living community with between 13 and 17 one-bedroom apartments for people 55 years and older. Strohecker sees the Dalmatia building as a multi-use facility including a banquet area in the auditorium, office space and perhaps an underage dance club.

Little interest

Erdman said he dissented because he believed the bids were too low for the properties. Hackenberg and Laudenslager commented that the sale process played out and due diligence was made on the district's behalf to get the best prices it could.

Bob Malafi, a district resident, said the school board should have rejected the two bids and held a public auction. He believed it would have drawn greater interest.

Doing so would have been a risk to Line Mountain. It could have brought more bidders and higher prices, or it could have done the opposite and left Line Mountain with lower bids than what the school board eventually approved. Strohecker himself said he'd likely bid less at public auction, and Reed said such buildings are only enticing to a niche market, thinning the potential pool of bidders.

Hackenberg noted there is much land available for private sale around the Dalmatia building, and it's been that way for years without any takers. The asking prices on some of those lots are between $25,000 and $28,000, she said.

A relative of Ronald Neidig's who works in real estate told him that sealed bids are evidence of the existing market. In Line Mountain's case, there was little interest. With only two bids submitted, he said he was told that a public auction wouldn't do much to improve the market.

Costly to demo, maintain

Cost to demolish the buildings proved exorbitant compared to a sale, even if it fell way short of expectations. Superintendent David Campbell estimated demolition of the near 36,000-square-foot Dalmatia building at as much as $150,014.

Simply keeping both buildings open from July through April cost the district a combined $65,474, $54,000 of which was spent at the Dalmatia building, according to Hackenburg.

A broken pressure gauge leaked 1,250 gallons of fuel oil from the Dalmatia building into the Lower Mahanoy Township Municipal Authority wastewater treatment plant in February.

District investment

Additional acreage for both properties was purchased in 2010 at a combined $115,000.

The 13,350-square-foot Leck Kill building underwent $1.1 million in renovations in 2010. The $6.3 million estimated cost to do the same at Dalmatia proved too expensive to the school board, since the renovation estimate was just $1.7 million less than the cost to build a completely new structure. That led the school board to vote in 2012 to approve realignment.

The buildings were closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year. There were 202 elementary students enrolled at Dalmatia when it closed; 61 at Leck Kill.

Buildings in Trevorton and Mandata were expanded last summer at a combined cost of $3.4 million to accommodate the realignment. Students from kindergarten through fourth grade now attend the Trevorton school, named Line Mountain Elementary School. Fifth-graders and sixth-graders attend class at the middle school, which is an addition to the Line Mountain High School building near Mandata.

Both vacant elementary schools were appraised last year by Real Estate Appraisal and Marketing Associates, Sunbury, but the results were held until after the sales were approved Tuesday.