Greater Essex County District School Board 451 Park St. Windsor N9A 6K1 519-255-3200
Date: February 16, 2016.
Statement in Regard to Sale of J.L. Forster SS Property
There have been concerns expressed about the process undertaken taken by the Greater Essex County District School Board with regard to the sale of the J.L. Forster Secondary School. We want to take this opportunity to set the record straight with regard to the actions taken by the Board.
J.L. Forster Secondary School closed in June 2014. Earlier that year, in anticipation of the sale of the property the Board obtained an appraisal report for the Forster property from Ray Bower Appraisal Services Inc. The appraised value is $1,200,000.00.
Following that and in keeping with Ministry of Education regulations, the Board solicited proposals for the purchase of the property from the entities designated by the regulation, including the City of Windsor. No interest was expressed in acquiring the Forster property.
In October 2014, the Board was first made aware by Progressive Waste Solutions Canada Inc. of an environmental issue near the Forster playing field. This was four months after the school was closed.
In March 2015, testing by Decommissioning Consulting Services, undertaken at Progressive’s request with the agreement of the Board, confirmed that there was an issue, eight feet below the surface, in a small corner of the Forster playing field property. That report was reviewed by the Board’s professional engineering staff, who concluded that there was no threat to human health.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and the Technical Standards and Safety Authority were informed and have been involved throughout the process. The Ministry of the Environment also concluded that the issue did not constitute an immediate threat to human health or to the environment.
After we became aware of the environmental issue, our legal counsel delivered a demand to Progressive and any action to sell the property on the open market was suspended while settlement discussions were pursued with Progressive.
Settlement options included selling the property to Progressive at the independently assessed fair market value. This option had several advantages: it avoided the prolonged timeframe and uncertain costs and outcome involved in full remediation of the property; and, it also avoided the almost certain reduced selling price for the remediated property. After lengthy discussions, Progressive agreed to pay the full, independently determined, fair market value for the Forster property. The Trustees had authority to approve the sale of the property on the basis they did.
We believe it is the Board’s fiduciary responsibility to ensure we obtain the best possible value for taxpayers from school properties. We are pleased that the price obtained for this property reflects fair market value. Furthermore, the settlement avoided the time and expense of prolonged litigation and potential remediation.
We hope this presentation of the facts is helpful and alleviates any concerns with regard to the sale of the Forster property.