LAWRENCE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A fierce debate is being waged in Long Island’s Five Towns. That debate centers on whether to turn a closed elementary school into outpatient medical offices that could reap millions of dollars for the cash-strapped community.
The hot-button issue is whether to sell the vacant Number Six School in Woodmere for $12.5 million, return it to the tax rolls and pump the much-needed cash into the district’s budget.
“The fact that there is a medical facility that can provide treatment and save them trips to the E.R., but at the same time, it seems to be the feeling over here that there is much more negative will come out of this than positive, and that’s why you see plastered all over town ‘vote no,’” Lawrence resident Eli Weiss told CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan.
“We don’t need a big commercial operation moving into the area. It’s not all about money!” Bernie Schreiber said.
The high bidder wants to develop it into medical offices for 60 doctors. It sits on the edge of a residential neighborhood on five acres of ball fields.
“It’s going to bring a lot of traffic into the community, which is what everybody is worried about and they also said it wouldn’t really change the tax base that much,” said homeowner Linda Szenicer.
The school board attorney said the village could reap $1 million a year in property taxes.
“Contract which does have the highest financial benefit taking everything into consideration,” said Lawrence school board attorney Albert D’Agostino.
Sixty percent of the million in yearly taxes would go to the public schools. Many in the area send their children to yeshivas, private, and charter schools.
The superintendent said it is up to the voters.
“We are really serving as a model in this school district, how parents and communities that support both private schools and public schools begin to interact and work out their differences and find common ground,” said Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Gary Schall.
Still, the issue appears contentious. No one on the school board was willing to go on the record Tuesday with an opinion on Wednesday’s vote.
If the medical offices are rejected, it is back to the drawing board. The second highest bidder was a yeshiva.
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