FREEPORT - A new course was set for the former Harrison Lakeland Elementary School building and about 70 acres of surrounding land when the property went to auction Wednesday.
The property consisted of about 50 acres of timberland and the building and surrounding 20 acres. The bidding was furious since the two parcels were auctioned separately, with each parcel including separate bids for acreage and mineral rights.
After an intense competition the entire parcel went to a single bidder. The highest bid came in at $320,000 under the name of Alan L. Miller, under Penny Triple II out of Holmesville. He had pooled resources with Roger and Christina Gilpin of Freeport, owners of Select-O-Sep, an internet and software development business.
Miller's aim was the 50.239-acre parcel. The Gilpins provided $96,000 for the building and 19.75 acres.
Miller said his primary interest was the minerals and land.
The Gilpins contributed $96,000 for the purchase of the building and surrounding 19 acres. Christina said their goal is both to expand their business and to make further use of the former school as a multi-purpose building, possibly by leasing portions to local concerns. Christina added that the Freeport Clinic has proposed a fitness center which they would consider.
"We have some really good plans for this," said Christina.
Roger added that they had no current plans for the mineral rights to the land, but wanted them secured. They plan to expand into the new building as soon as possible.
Roger noted that they would retain use of their site at 111 West Main St.
They have been in business in Freeport since 2004 and employ seven to nine people. The Gilpins are from Indiana originally. Christina said the quality of people and close proximity to an Internet hub motivated their decision to establish their company in the area.
The Harrison Youth Group, an organization of families from the Freeport area, had fought the auction and had attempted to obtain the building and ground at the auction. Christina added that they wish the Harrison Youth Group the best of luck in their endeavors.
Jenn Fisher of the Harrison Youth Group said the group would continue its plans for a charter school. She noted the passion and determination of group members and added that they were not discouraged.
"We're going to have a school," she said, adding that they will continue to explore options including leasing land and constructing a building, noting that funding is available for such a project. They are in contact with the Ohio Charter Partners and looking into grants. They have the support and sponsorship of Portage County Educational Service Center. They have also filed paperwork with the state. "We are technically a school. If we have to build a building, that's what we'll do."
Group members also expressed regret that the communities and district had been unable to work together rather than continuing to fragment into factions.
The Lakeland school was one of three closed last year along with buildings in Jewett and Cadiz's Harrison Westgate due to the district's deficit. The remaining schools in Hopedale, Scio and Cadiz were redesignated. After numerous meetings and debates the board decided that auctioning the Lakeland property was the safest and most feasibly sound route.
The board also passed a resolution prohibiting the site for being used as a school.
Auctioneer David Jones of Homeland Realty conducted the auction, assisted by Dan Waller.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com