UPDATE: Amherstburg Taking Catholic School Board To Arbitration Over Sale Of Former St. Bernard's

Amherstburg is taking the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board to task over the sale of the former St. Bernard Elementary School.

The town's CAO John Miceli says the town wants to buy the building to develop a community hub for seniors, but the board won't agree to sell it at fair market value.

Amherstburg is now sending the matter to an arbitrator who will set the price for the property.

Miceli says the board had the school appraised at $650,000, but during negotiations, asked for $100,000 over that.

"It's been extremely exhausting working with the Catholic School Board. When you look at bargaining in good faith between public entities, I find this very difficult especially when there's a community use and a community benefit. There's a total disregard for the Town of Amherstburg and its residents."

He says he's questioning the Catholic School Board's motives.

"We told them early on in the process that we have a desire to acquire the property and we've been following the process to the T. Unfortunately, the board has not done that and we're just trying to ensure that we protect the interests of the public ratepayer in Amherstburg."

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Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Amherstburg, John Miceli (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Miceli adds, taxpayers have already paid for the school once and shouldn't be forced to overpay for it this time around.

"You look at the province, and what they've said is that we have to make better use of public buildings when it's time to dispose of them. We have a taxpayer that's paid for this building, has paid for the maintenance of this building and now, when it's time to dispose of the building, the Catholic School Board is saying. "We're going to ignore the ratepayers in the Town of Amherstburg."

Meanwhile, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board says it won't discuss property matters in public.

"As a rule, we do not discuss property matters in public," says catholic board spokesperson Stephen Fields.  "Whenever we are involved in any sort of ongoing negotiations over any property matter, we maintain confidentiality out of respect for the process and all the parties involved."

Fields says the catholic board has followed the regular process.

"Before you put it on the open market, offer it to neighbouring school boards and to municipalities where the school is located."

Under provincial rules, when a school closes, neighbouring school boards are first in line to bid on the property, if they don't step forward, the municipality is then given a chance.

There's no word yet on how long the arbitration process will take.

St. Bernard's closed in June 2016.