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Van Buren Schools seek room to grow, but neighbors not budging

VAN BUREN — Van Buren Schools want room to grow, but so far, the neighbors aren’t budging.

Superintendent Tim Myers said there are properties in the 200 block of South Main Street, Van Buren, that would be a welcome addition to the growing campus.

On Monday, Van Buren school board voted to seek a $29 million bond in the May 6 election.

Money from the issue would go toward demolition of the older part of the high school and middle school building, and the construction of new classrooms and a new gym, said Superintendent Tim Myers. The money would also go toward improvements to heating and air conditioning in the district’s two schools.

News of the school board’s decision to pursue the bond issue generated rumors that the board may try to take the properties by force, by declaring eminent domain. Eminent domain allows private property to be taken for public use, following payment of just compensation to the owner.

However, Myers said the board wants to negotiate.

“The additional property would allow for a more “advantageous” design of the new school classrooms, but we’re willing to work around it,” he said.

The properties are located at 209, 211, 213 and 215 South Main Street, Van Buren. The school campus is located at 217 S. Main St. Van Buren schools bought one house on the block, at 207 S. Main St., for $65,500 in 2010.

“We did have one homeowner approach us who was very interested in selling, but wanted three times the property’s market value,” said Myers. “We can’t do something like that. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers to try and get the property at a reasonable price.”

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