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Lindenhurst board now leaning toward renting closed school

Edward W. Bower Elementary School, which was closed

Edward W. Bower Elementary School, which was closed in 2011, is shown in this 2015 file photo. Credit: Steve Pfost

The fate of a closed elementary school in Lindenhurst appears to be leaning in a new direction.

The Lindenhurst board of education on Wednesday is expected to again vote on whether to sell the Edward W. Bower Elementary School on Montauk Highway. The school was closed in 2011 as a result of the building’s age and declining enrollment. Despite rent from several groups, the district continues to spend nearly $200,000 a year on maintenance and debt service for the school.

The board voted 6-3 to sell the property in 2015, and later voted 7-2 to sell it to Garden City-based developer Engel Burman Group. However, in an October 2016 referendum, voters rejected a $5.5 million offer by that developer to build senior condos on the site by a vote of 1,004 to 606.

In February a think tank recommended renting or repurposing the building. An architect’s report in 2015 cited $9.3 million in needed repairs, including a new roof, but a recent engineer’s inspection found that the roof was in good condition.

In addition, district Superintendent Dan Giordano last month presented information showing that the district could charge by the square foot at the building by renting its classrooms, possibly adding as much as $175,000 in revenue annually.

Board president Donna Hochman called the new engineering report “eye opening” and others on the board also appeared to be swayed by all of the new information.

At last month’s community forum, board member Kevin Garbe said he had been a “strong proponent” of selling the building. “I still feel that it is a very financially responsible thing to do,” he said.

However, he said, “if we got all 15 of those [classrooms] rented, we’re probably coming very, very close to operating in the black and that’s the goal.”

“I think the best thing to do would be to try and rent the building,” said board member Valerie McKenna, who had also been an advocate for selling. “I don’t think selling is prudent. I think the community has spoken and I think we need to respect that decision.”

The board of education will meet Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the McKenna Administration Building, 350 Daniel St.

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