The agreement, however, does not commit the school system to buying the property, school system officials said.
The agreement, which includes a $5.5 million purchase price, gives the school system a 45- to 78-day window, starting Wednesday, to check out the property and the building’s systems, Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said.
“We’re exploring options right now. We have not made a firm commitment” concerning the former Allegheny Energy property, school board Vice President Paul Bailey said after the board’s night meeting.
School board President Justin Hartings was not available for comment after Tuesday night’s school board meeting because he left the meeting early due to illness.
The vote came approximately three hours after the school board met with Hagerstown’s mayor and city council so city officials could give their pitch for the school board to relocate its administrative offices downtown. The meeting was held at the school system’s central office complex off Commonwealth Avenue, the same complex school board members decided in January that they would not invest future renovations in and would look for alternative options for the offices’ future.
Asked what message the board’s vote sends city officials, Bailey said, “I think the only message that it would send is that we’re ... anxious to get into a facility that is much needed to accommodate the central office staff here, not so much the elected board, but the people who have to work in this facility every day.
“I’m sure they will look at our action and determine the speed with which they must react now, too,” said Bailey, referring to city officials.
Asked if downtown was still an option, Bailey said, “I think all options are open.”
Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts said city officials were informed of the school board’s intent to vote after the joint meeting Tuesday.
“I respect their need to do due diligence and to look at other alternatives,” he said Tuesday night. “I think that’s what everybody would expect for public officials to do.”
Gysberts equated the scenario to what happened when the city was looking at options for a stadium project last year.
“If you put all your eggs in one basket and you don’t do your due diligence, then you might get criticism on that other end, so I don’t fault them for taking a look at that property,” he said.
Rolling out the ‘red carpet’
The mayor remained confident the school board would still see “very clearly” the advantages of relocating downtown after they look closer at the former Allegheny Energy site.
“We’re very much courting them,” Gysberts said, adding that he would welcome the opportunity to tour potential downtown sites with school board members moving forward.
Gysberts said during the roughly 90-minute joint meeting that city officials were “pretty much prepared to roll out the red carpet” to get the school board to relocate downtown.
City officials didn’t present a formal pitch to the school board, but Councilman Lewis C. Metzner told the school board he could almost assure they wouldn’t need to look at acquisition or demolition costs, and that city officials realize the school system would need a dedicated parking deck with free parking.
Metzner said he intended to ask the Washington County commissioners at another Tuesday meeting about using at least part of money set aside initially for a downtown multiuse stadium to help the school board relocate downtown.