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Gouverneur School Board accepts offer for Fowler School

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GOUVERNEUR — The Board of Education has accepted a purchase offer for $300,000 from Brian H. Murray, Washington Street Properties, for the closed Fowler Elementary School. The property could become a counseling center.

Mr. Murray, a Jefferson Community College business professor, has an 180-day due diligence period to complete the purchase.

Mr. Murray was unavailable for comment, but he told school officials he was interested in the building as a counseling center, which would be beneficial to the community, school Superintendent Lauren F. French said. A counseling center would provide services, offer employment, and make use of what could otherwise remain a vacant building, she said.

“It’s a positive thing for the community,” Mrs. French said.

Although several people were interested in Fowler School, Mr. Murray was the only one who submitted an offer, Mrs. French said.

Mr. Murray’s Washington Street Properties was one of two companies that shared the 2013 Downtown Business of the Year designation awarded by the Watertown Downtown Business Association. Washington Street Properties was chosen for its investment in several downtown Watertown structures, including the Lincoln Building on Public Square and Solar Building on Franklin Street.

Last year, an appraiser put a rough value of $250,000 on the Fowler School building, which the district decided to close in 2013 because of declining enrollments, transferring students to fill vacant classrooms in other elementary schools.

Also at a Monday meeting, the board rejected the two bids it had received for a revamping of the bus system and reopened the process to the four companies that attended a pre-bid conference.

The school board rejected bids from First Student — which provides the district’s transportation now — and Freeman, the apparent low bidder, because of a calculation error Freeman made in what it was able to do. The board also narrowed the scope of what it was looking for to a “double-trip” system, meaning that younger pupils would be bused separately from older students.

The district decided to put its bus service out for proposals in the hope of reducing the time that students are on the bus.

The board hopes to consider a new round of bids at its March 10 meeting.

The board also approved a veteran’s exemption for school property taxes.

The exemptions include 15 percent reductions in assessed value for veterans who served during a war, another 10 percent for those who were in combat zones and an additional reduction for service-related disabilities.

Gouverneur identified $1.3 million in property that could qualify if an exemption was approved.

That would mean an increase in the tax rate for non-veteran property owners of seven cents per $1,000 of assessed value based on this year’s figures.

For a house assessed at $60,000, the increase would be $2, Mrs. French said.

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