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School district looks to unload building

By Staff | Jul 17, 2012

MUNCY – Efforts to sell the Muncy School District’s administrative home – the Margaret E. Waldron Building, 46 S. Main St., have not resulted in any takers, according to district officials, but the historic structure still is on the market.

The building was put up for bid in March when school board members voted unanimously to sell it. In April, board members voted to list the property with Williamsport-based Girio Agency.

The June 28 deadline for bids came and went without an offer, said David Edkin, school district business manager. School board members will discuss their options on the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. “The board has to decide what they want to do. Sell it privately or remain for bid,” Edkin said.

The district’s agreement with Girio Agency calls for a six-month listing. The minimum bid to buy the building was set at $125,000 with an additional 10 percent fee to cover the district’s closing costs.

Edkin said the school district leased the building 15 years ago and exercised a purchase option at the end of the agreement. Monthly school board meetings are held in a first-floor meeting room and the administration’s offices are housed on the second floor.

Additionally, office space at the rear of the building presently is leased to Lycoming County for District Judge Jon E. Kemp’s magisterial court.

After the sale of the building, administration offices likely would be moved to the junior-senior high school campus at 200 W. Penn St.

One school board member thinks the county would be a prospective buyer of the property. William Schneck said it would make sense for Lycoming County government to take possession of the building to expand what he said were crowded conditions in the district judge’s facilities.

“They do have some challenges,” Schneck said of space in Kemp’s offices. “Having the whole building – the way it’s laid out – would really satisfy their needs.”

Schneck said that if that happens, office space on the second floor could be rented out to lawyers, for instance.

The school board agreed to sell the building and use the proceeds to invest in its budget.

“That’s the whole purpose behind it,” Schneck said. “It’s a piece of property we feel today is not necessary. We feel we could save some money by sending it on to a new owner.”

Thomas Gardner, board president, agreed with Schneck.

“We’d rather put (money) in a building where it can be put in education,” he said.

Schneck, the lone school board member still serving from when the district bought the building, said he wasn’t in favor of buying it in the first place. He said influence from the previous superintendent, Priscilla Feir, led the district to become the owners of the building.

Renamed after the Muncy-area benefactress, the building originally was called Penn Hall and was completed in 1874 by the Lycoming County Mutual Insurance Co.

According to information from Penn Hall Preservation Inc., the nonprofit group that organized in 1987 to restore the building, the insurance company dissolved in 1881 after financial setbacks. The building remained unused for several years until local attorney A.D. Hower used it for his home and office.

The Muncy public school bought the building in 1908 for $10,000 and called it the Executive Building. It was used as an elementary school until the present high school was completed in 1932, according to the information.

The building was converted to the Penn Hall Apartments in 1938 and was sold again in 1969 and 1974 to absentee landlords. During this time, the exterior stucco walls and ornate cornice deteriorated into an eyesore. Several small fires also broke out, but did not cause major damage, according to the preservation group.

Health and safety concerns closed the building in 1986. Muncy Borough obtained a grant from the Waldron Foundation for a feasibility study to purchase the building, but never came to fruition.