The now vacant Little Valley Central School building could have a new resident soon.
The drafting of a lease agreement between the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School district and the Cattaraugus County Board of Elections is in the final stages of completion.
However, the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Board of Education has decided to postpone its decision on the agreement until its next meeting on Jan. 8.
The board's reason for postponing its decision is that the contract was not fully completed at the time of its submission at the recent board meeting. According to Jon Peterson, Cattaraugus-Little Valley superintendent, the incomplete contract was submitted as the result of a time crunch though he had been hoping to have it approved at the meeting.
"The county (board of elections) works on a calendar year while we work on a school year," explained Peterson. "Between myself representing the (school) district and the county administrator (Jack Searles) representing the county, we reached an agreement which needed formal action by the county legislators and the board of education. (The county legislators) passed the agreement last week, so I tried to get a lease agreement drafted by our attorney to protect the interest of the district."
Due to time constraints and a slow-moving legal process, the contract was unable to be fully drafted before the board meeting. After an hour of deliberation, the board chose not to make a decision until the full terms of the agreement have been presented. According to Peterson, the contract will rent out approximately 4,700 square feet, which equates to roughly half of the first floor of the building not including the auditorium, to the county board of elections. The board of education will need to approve the numbers as well as the terms of rent that the district will receive from the county.
According to Peterson, his attorney had advised him that the board only needed to approve the terms of the lease agreement, but such an agreement would not be written for at least another week.
Nevertheless, Peterson is expecting progress to be made at the Jan. 8 board meeting.
"I am anticipating that (the board) will move forward with the full agreement," he said.
The two parties have been in discussion, which later became negotiations, since last December. Peterson said that the county was looking for a place to relocate its board of elections and the district was happy to entertain the notion of leasing a portion of its former school building.
"We were as interested at the time as they were because we weren't occupying the building," he said. "I think its a great relationship (that we have) with the county because they're a public entity just like us. A lot of times, you see a lot of schools sit vacant after they're closed, so it's good see a tentative agreement (which would allow it to still be in use)."
Concurrently, the board has approved and submitted an appeal before John King, state commissioner of education, to close the building for educational purposes. According to Peterson, King "unbelievably" hasn't heard the appeal yet, though it was submitted over the summer. The district has been unable to market part of the building in the event that King chooses to reverse the board's decision.
Since the consolidation of the Little Valley and Cattaraugus school districts in 2000, the Little Valley building has been in continuous use. In 2006, a referendum put forth by the board to close the building and consolidate all activities in the Cattaraugus district was rejected by the Little Valley community. This year, the board's decision to close the building was made without voter approval and is still waiting appeal with the state Education Department.