County values Connolly at $294,000

Friday, March 13, 2009
There's been a school at the crest of Haynes Street for more than a century.

The old Connelly School and its five acres, scheduled for the auction block a week from today, is appraised by Marshall County at $294,200.

The 67,230-square-foot building, measured by County Assessor Linda Haislip in 2001, was appraised at $246,100, Haislip said recently. The land was valued at $48,100.

"It's exempt property," Haislip said of the real estate being sold by a Murfreesboro-based auctioneer for Central Park of Marshall County, a non-profit organization that sought to turn the old school into a community center.

Because the real estate is exempt from property taxes, she said, "We haven't made any changes" to the appraisal, which was conducted on a request from the county government.

Auctioneer Bob Bugg of Bob Parks Auction Co., is scheduled to start the sale at 12:30 p.m. on March 20. Central Park of Marshall County, led by Loval Jobe, 56, of Chapel Hill, selected the Murfreesboro company for the sale.

If the property is sold to any person or business other than a tax-exempt entity, then the real estate is "assessable," Haislip said. It would then be subject to Lewisburg and county property taxes.

"More than likely," the assessor said, "they would appeal the assessment" to the Marshall County Board of Equalization.

"If it's a distressed sale, then it's not an arms-length transaction and the sale price is not the appraised value," Haislip explained. "I would then have to look at comparable sales. If there wasn't an old school [that was sold] in the county, then I'd have to look elsewhere."

However, because she needs more than one comparable sale price, Haislip would look at one institutional sale in this county, if there is a similar situation. As a result, she will probably have to examine properties beyond the county line.

Lewisburg Housing Authority acquired the old school property from the county and on May 28, 2004, Central Park of Marshall County obtained the real estate from the Authority.

"When it was given to us, it was for the Silver Street Youth Enrichment Tutoring Program to serve about 100 low-income kids and for the Youth Recreation Program where older kids were paid to study," former Housing Authority Executive Director Jerry Freeman said.

"The County Commission gave it to the Housing Authority and we got an agreement from the city to use the PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) money to paint and remodel the building," Freeman said. "We tried to do 30 square feet at a time.

"Then, as far as I know, they did away with both programs and gave the building away," the former Housing Authority executive director said.

"We were trying to get the building refurbished to get emergency housing for homeless people while they waited for public housing," Freeman said.

"We were also trying to get it on the ... Register" of Historic Places, he said. "It's close to 100 years old ... and the building has been re-done two times."

Freeman is a candidate for mayor in Lewisburg's May 5 election, as is retired county educator Barbara Woods. Both spoke of old Connelly School after this week's meeting of the City Council.

"In 1961, when the high school burned," Woods said of the building on Silver Street that was Marshall County High School before it became Connelly School, "I started my freshman year" at MCHS.

The library, gymnasium, cafeteria and perhaps the band room remained.

"So, we all had classes in Quonset huts on the football field below the school so they could build it back," Woods said.

"When it rained, the noise (from the metal roof) was so intense that you couldn't hear anything, so they put tarps on the roof and then when the wind blew, the tarps flapped and created enough noise so you couldn't hear," she said.

"Then ... they installed heaters because we did end up there in the winter months," Woods continued. "They had a board walk because otherwise we'd be up to our knees in mud, but when the boards got wet, they got slippery and you could slide on them.

"The teachers were real troopers and despite all those hardships, they endured," the retired teacher and principal said. "I guess it was 1964 when they opened the high school where the junior high is now.

"I lived in Hickory Heights and you could see the fire" when the school burned," she said. "I guess it was the glow at night."

City Councilman Robin Minor, a Lewisburg Middle School history teacher, said the building "goes back to the Haynes McClain Academy [for boys]. There's been a school there since the late 1800s."