Target 11 investigates empty school buildings

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From the North Side to the Southside to Hazelwood, empty school buildings dot the landscape. There are 18 of them in all, including one in Bon Air.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle talked to a woman who lives near the closed school.

“Is it frustrating to walk by this building every day?” asked Earle. 

“Every day, and it’s a beautiful school.  Look at the mint condition it’s in,” said Bon Air resident Rosemary Geyer.

Mint condition, but the buildings are costing taxpayers more than $700,000 a year to maintain. 

"They kept the utilities on so you don't have cannibalizing of the buildings. You don't have them becoming eyesores," said Pittsburgh School District solicitor Ira Weiss.

To speed up the sale, the district hired Fourth River Development last year at a cost of $10,000  per month to market the buildings. So far they’ve paid the company $130,000 and they’ve sold two of the buildings.

“We’d like to see it move a little faster, but on the other hand the board is very deliberate and wants to make sure they are doing the right thing, and the communities are satisfied,” said Weiss, who admits that selling old school buildings isn’t easy because of the limited uses.

But Weiss told Target 11 that the district has received offers for some other buildings, and he’s optimistic they will sell soon, and be back on the tax rolls. Weiss said this is a good investment for taxpayers.

“The fact of the matter is to get the level of expertise  and attention needed to market the number of buildings we have all of which have their own challenges this is the kind of arrangement you need,” said Weiss.

Fourth River has recommended selling 15 buildings, and either donating or demolishing four and turning one in Knoxville into a warehouse for the school district. Whatever happens to the closed buildings, residents like Rosemary Geyer say they want a say.

“We’ve been taxpayers here. We've supported our school district with our tax dollars and I think the community should have the first say with what's done with any of these buildings,” said Geyer.

Weiss tells Earle that neighbors will have a say in the process.  In addition to the $10,000 a month payment, Fourth River also gets a percentage of every sale. 

Target 11 will continue to track the progress of these old school buildings and let you know how the district is spending your tax dollars.