Baldwin school board agrees to sell Vinland for high bid of $301,000
After opening four sealed bids, the Baldwin school board voted unanimously Tuesday to sell the closed Vinland Elementary School to Darren Flory for $301,000.
The bid was the highest of those submitted before Tuesday’s noon deadline. It was also $81,000 more than Flory offered for the school in December before the board decided to accept sealed bids for the school and surrounding property.
The board was to open bids from those who had previously made offers for the school at a special meeting Jan. 5, but agreed to delay the opening to allow all interested parties to submit a bid. That decision earned the board a new bidder in Richardson Jump Starters, a manufacturer of battery jump starters and chargers south of Eudora.
The four bids for the school were from Dave MacFarlane of MacFarlane Aviation for $230,000, Richardson Jump Starters for $265,000 and Peter Shenouda for $275,000. Two of the bidders, MacFarlane and Richardson Jump Starters, indicated they would continue to make the gym at the school available to the Baldwin City Recreation Commission and for community events. MacFarlane said he would use part of the building to expand production of his aircraft parts company. Shenouda planned to use the site as a day care.
In making the motion to accept Flory’s bid, board member Sandy Chapman explained she supported selling to the highest offer because she couldn’t place a value on the community’s use of the gym.
Unlike some of the other bids, Flory’s offer was not contingent on getting the property rezoned or negotiating an agreement with a neighboring property owner to secure an easement for a lateral to the building’s lagoon system.
In comments to the Signal after the board’s decision, Flory said he hadn’t talked with that property owner about the issue. He would do that now, but said he was prepared to install a septic system to meet the smaller needs of his operation.
He intended to approach Douglas County officials Wednesday about rezoning the property for office and warehouse use for his dairy equipment supply company, Flory said. His company supplies dairy farms milking equipment, which is increasingly robotic, he said. He needed the additional office space because repairs to that equipment were now made on computers, he said.
He needed to close on the deal and move forward as fast as possible because his business had outgrown its current space at his father’s farm on U.S. Highway 59 south of Pleasant Grove, Flory said.
He now has 19 employees and anticipates growing to 25 at Vinland within two years, Flory said. The business currently has locations in Wichita and Springfield, Mo., but he would probably consolidate the Wichita location at Vinland, he said.
Flory, who had five children attend Vinland Elementary, said he understood the emotional attachment people in the Vinland community have for the school.
“I was really upset about the whole thing of shutting down the school,” he said. “At the last board meeting, a lot of people from Vinland spoke about their feelings for the school. I can sympathize with that. I was not happy to see it closed. But since it was closed and the district’s not going to reopen it, it‘s better for it to be put to use than costing the district money.”
The money the district receives from the sale will be placed in the district’s capital outlay fund.