Council to review purchase of Lincoln Middle School property tonight

By Gus Bode

Council to review purchase of Lincoln Middle School property tonight

Land would serve as future police department

The future of the currently abandoned Lincoln Middle School is to be determined by the City Council tonight, as it will entertain the option of purchasing the school for $200,000, City Manager Jeff Doherty said.

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Carbondale Elementary School District 95’s school board approved the agreement to purchase at last week’s meeting, opening the doors for the city’s plan to purchase four and a half acres of the west portion of the land, which includes the school, and demolish it to someday build a police station.

The city plans to pay for the middle school, 501 S. Washington St., with a $750,000 Illinois First Grant appropriated to the city in January by former Gov. George Ryan.

The grant money will go to help pay for the property, demolition of the building and asbestos abatement, which Doherty said would probably cost within the three-quarters of a million dollars allotted by the grant.

Doherty said closing on the property would not take place until July because the school plans to use it as storage for furniture and equipment throughout the summer. Demolition would not begin until after Aug. 1.

He said the final costs are unknown because the city has not decided whether it will keep the gymnasium portion of the school.

Doherty said there is no timetable for construction of the new building. The building, which is expected to cost an estimated $6 million to $8 million, is not currently funded and is without plans for funding in the near future.

“The city at this time is not in the position to begin that project,” Doherty said. “We’ll probably just have to sit back and wait for better times before we proceed with that project.”

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The purpose of the purchase, Doherty said, is to have the opportunity and the location to build a new police station when the city is financially ready.

Councilman Mike Neill, who has expressed his concerns regarding the city’s current budget situation, said because the city received a large enough grant that the budget should not be affected too much.

He said the aspect the city does not have money for is the construction of the police department. But he said oftentimes things are done for the future without a plan for the funding. He cited the City Hall as an example, saying that the land was acquired years before it was actually constructed.

Doherty said funding for the new police department would likely come from issued bonds. He said it would be nice to secure a grant, but the city needs plan on paying for it locally.

City officials have also discussed with SIUC administration the possibility of moving the SIUC police department from its location in Washington Square to the new building so the two departments could share functions, such as communications, dispatch and records.

The remainder of the 10-acre property, the east lot, will probably become high-density housing, Doherty said, based on prior indications. In addition, the city plans to extend Marion Street through the property near the line of what the city is buying and the city still owns.

Reporter Sara Hooker can be reached at [email protected]

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