In principle, the Seymour Area Arts Council is the new owner of the former Seymour Elementary School building on North Cordie Street, a structure built in the height of the Great Depression in 1937 by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).
To most in the community, the structure is known as the “rock building.”
At last Thursday night’s regular meeting of the Seymour R-II Board of Education, Dan Wehmer, president of the Seymour Area Arts Council, addressed board members about the building and its future, following up from a March meeting when Wehmer pitched the idea of the local arts council purchasing the historic WPA building.
In its offer in March, the arts council offered $1 for the building, noting that the structure, per tentative estimates from contractors, needed between $700,000 and $1 million in improvements to be fully functional. Noted were concerns about standing water in the building’s basement and mold throughout its lower and upper levels.
Wehmer explained that the arts council saw the project as one that realistically could take a decade to complete.
Board members were positive about the arts council’s plans at the March meeting.
Last Thursday, Wehmer addressed the board to follow up on final questions posed by board members and Superintendent Steve Richards.
First was the property’s boundaries.
To that end, Wehmer said the arts council wanted the real estate given in the transaction to include “all the land that is part of the rock building,” meaning a strip of land bordered on the west by North Cordie Street, on the south by Center Avenue and on the west by Center Drive.
“My intention is to get an immediate survey, and I’ve got the surveyor lined up, but before I do that, I need to know the dimensions of the land he needs to survey,” he explained.
“If we can agree on the property’s boundaries, then I can get that completed.”
He also asked the school to give the arts council an additional 15 feet of land on the north side of the building, so vehicles could park there in the future.
“Do you want to share the driveway at this entrance?” board member Bob Crump asked.
“No, an easement would be fine,” Wehmer said.
“We just want for vehicles to be able to enter here. We’re not asking for any ownership of that entrance.”
After some discussion, the board agreed to the property dimensions as outlined by Wehmer.
Next up was the actual survey and associated costs with a pending real-estate transaction.
Wehmer said the arts council would bear all costs of the property’s sale, including costs of the survey, title search, title insurance, if needed, and the closing costs.
“Once we close, the school district won’t be asked to pay a thing,” he noted. “We accept all of the burden for any costs associated with this sale.”
Wehmer also explained that he recently had spoken with members of the Seymour Board of Aldermen, of which he is an elected member, about moving the old Frisco caboose from the city’s South Park to a site on the south end of the rock-building property.
“There is unanimous support within the city board to do this,” he said. “And although I’ve not yet addressed this with my arts council, I’m sure every member will be 100 percent in favor of this.
“This site is a natural one for the old caboose. It’s right next to the railroad tracks versus sitting behind a fence in a park on the south end of town.”
After a brief discussion, the board voted 6-0 to proceed with the sale of the property to the arts council, pending an official survey of the site. (Debbie Baker, the board’s vice president, arrived after the vote.)
Wehmer said he would have the survey completed by the school board’s next meeting.
“Once that’s done, then we can move forward with the actual sale of the building and property,” Richards said.
“I think we’ve got a deal.”