What happened to the $500,000 set aside to demolish primary school sold for $1,000?
LODI, Wis. — “Now, we are at the point where we have to get loud,” said Lodi resident Nicole Bilzing. “We have to get answers.”
Bilzing is one of many people who live in Lodi that want answers to what happened to the money that was originally set aside to demolish the former primary school building that ended up being sold to a Madison property owner for $1,000.
“We want something that’s going to bring value,” Bilzing said. “We don’t want a warehouse, we don’t want a pawn store, we don’t want just an empty building for years to come just waiting for a developer to put in whatever they have.”
The Lodi school board treasurer, Steven Ricks, wanted to clear the situation up for residents who are wondering what happened and what will happen.
“The plan originally was to sell the primary school building and sell it to some developer that would do something nice with it in the city,” Ricks said. “We found that a school building is a very difficult thing to sell, especially in a small town. So at that point, we started looking into what would happen if we had to tear down the building and what would that involve.”
Keeping demolition as an option, they set aside $500,000 of your taxpayer dollars to do so.
However, they wanted to keep the property as is and preserve its history. They kept trying to tackle the option of selling it.
They school asked for appraisal on the building. Ricks said the appraisers suggested they don’t put value on it, but instead just offer it up for sale and see what kind of offers they got.
Fifteen people were interested, but, only one made an official offer.
The school sold the building for $1,000 in March to a man named Duane Steinhauer, who owns several other properties in the Dane County area.
Many residents have asked why the school sold it to Steinhauer without knowing what the official plans were for the property. Ricks said they were running out of time and needed to do something immediately. Ricks said Steinhauer was their only option.
“The money from that referendum has to be used by May of 2020,” Ricks said.
Since plans to demolish the building were canceled due to the building being sold, the $500,000 originally set aside for its demolition will be going back into the school. Ricks said they plan on adding labs, greenhouses and additions to the high school athletic field.
The future of the former primary school building and surrounding property still remains uncertain. The property is currently zoned as residential one. Steinhauer wants it to be rezoned to C-3, commercial multi-use space.
Lodi Mayor Jim Ness said Steinhauer has pitched several options to rezone the area but Common Council has rejected all offers so far.
“The neighborhood up there doesn’t want certain parts of C-3, and we are referring it to the Economic Development Committee to see if we can try to work something out,” Ness said.
Ness said Steinhauer cannot do anything with the building until Common Council can agree with him on what it is used for.
“The council isn’t willing to rezone,” Ness said.
People like Bilzing want this space to be used for something that will bring the community together, but the mayor said they had hoped for housing.
“I thought all along it should be senior housing,” Ness said. “We need housing in Lodi, first of all. Senior housing especially.”
Since the owner nor Common Council can agree on what to do, the building will remain as is until they can agree.
When asked how long the process of back and forth could continue between Steinhauer and Common Council, Ness said, “It could go on for a while.”
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