Farmington Schools trustees sign off on Harrison sale

While the price ended up being far greater than $1, Farmington Public Schools trustees aren’t particularly happy about an agreement they approve Tuesday to sell Harrison High to the City of Farmington Hills.

The city initially offered a token amount for the property on 12 Mile Road east or Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills. Officials plan to turn the 240,000-square-foot building and grounds into a community center with recreation, cultural arts, and athletic facilities.

Harrison High lobby
This rendering shows a view of the proposed activities center lobby.

The $500,000 purchase price didn’t sit well with trustee Terry Johnson, who cast the lone vote against the sale.

“It might be in the best interest of the City of Farmington Hills, but this is not in the best interest of Farmington Public Schools,” he said. “I think it leaves us with a tremendous amount of exposure if this deal were to go south. I don’t think that this amount is even close to what this building is worth.”

Trustee Mark Przeslawski noted that subtracting demolition and property maintenance costs from the appraised value “gets us closer to what the city is offering.” And while trustee Terri Weems agreed with Johnson about the sale price, she said that the city’s offer to pay for all costs related to the sale and other concessions made the deal more palatable.

“I’m not in the mood frankly to waste valuable time,” she said. “I want to get back to the business of focusing on kids.

Despite a level of discomfort, trustee Jessica Cummings said she felt comfortable with the process. She also felt there might be a limited amount of interest in the property if the district put it on the open market.

“We have homes in this community that sell for $500,000,” trustee Angie Smith said, “but I also think we need to move on. I’m not happy with what the city is asking for, and I want that to be known publicly.”

Trustee Jim Stark commended both the school district and city administrations for “working together to reach a settlement that is maybe not perfect for either side but is fair. I think we did do our due diligence.”

“We vote our conscience,” board president David Turner said, noting officials have taken input from “many, many voices.”

“We have earned every penny of the money we don’t receive for being on this board in this contract,” he said. “I was not happy with the process, personally, but I was not at the table negotiating.”