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Sullivan West board votes for sale; Retaining mineral rights is an issue

By Kevin Kearney
January 30, 2013

The Sullivan West School Board voted January 10 to sell the shuttered Delaware Valley School Building for $1.16 million, but not before a lengthy debate about the district relinquishing mineral rights on the 10.9-acre property.

The buyer of the property, Emily Wu, plans to open a private school for Chinese students.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me to give away mineral rights that in 10 years we would regret,” said board vice president Angela Daley, noting that without those rights the district cannot receive royalties in the event of gas exploration. “We would be foolish to not have that benefit for the school district.”

Superintendent Nancy M. Hackett said relinquishing the mineral rights was a moot point because of Wu’s plans to have the building occupied by children, making gas exploration an impractical option. And the district does own mineral rights on an adjacent 58-acre property sold last year to Rich Winter.

“I think that property is more valuable for mineral rights,” said board member Rachel Brey. She added that getting the school property back on the tax rolls would give the district a regular source of additional income. The school closed in 2005 due to declining enrollment.

The final vote was 6-2 to go through with the sale, with Daley and Rose Joyce-Turner casting the dissenting votes. Voting in favor of the sale were Brey, Mary Scheutzow, Lucas Arzilli, Joan Glase, Kathleen Meckle and Kevin Murphy. Ken Cohen was absent.

Wu, who also owns a private school in Queens, has reportedly reached a deal with Winter to obtain additional acreage to be used for a dormitory and other facilities.

Taxpayer Eric van Swol, brother of late board member Noel van Swol, was critical of the board relinquishing mineral rights on the school property. “You’re giving away control,” he told the board.

Glase said, “It’s a tough situation. We’re doing the best we can do.”

Daley expressed concern over some of the inventory that was included in the sale, such as paint and other supplies. “There’s a lot of stuff here,” she said.

Business administrator Lorraine Poston said, “We’ve already taken out what we can use,” noting much of the inventory is of low quality and there is a lack of storage space.

In other news, Kevin Murphy was sworn in as a board member to replace the vacancy created by the death of Noel van Swol, who died in a car crash on October 15, 2012.