January 20, 2022

Homer project OK’d; Virgil sale falls

Photos by Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Virgil Elementary School, home of the Vikings, closed at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year. File photo from May 2019.

Voters in the Homer Central School District voted Tuesday to spend $24 million on capital improvements. However, Cortland Enlarged City School District voters decided against selling the former Virgil Elementary School.

The proposal to sell the former Virgil Elementary School for $360,000 to Evan Souzas, who owns The Community Restaurant on Main Street in Cortland and several buildings and apartments in the city, failed, 228-269, in complete but unofficial results.

Souzas said he plans to turn the building and its 4.6-acre lot into market-rate apartments, which traditionally attract retirees, young professionals and small families.

Souzas estimated rents would be $850 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Some residents said the town is predominantly family homes and they do not want many new apartments.

The school, along with Parker Elementary School in Cortland, closed in 2019 because of declining enrollment. The city of Cortland decided in October to buy the former Parker School to house child-care programs.

A $24 million capital improvement project involving all four schools in the Homer Central School District passed, 257-18, in complete but unofficial results.

Roofs would be replaced at all four schools, according to the plan.

Parking lots, drives, sidewalks and bathrooms, would be renovated, too.

Americans with Disability Association enhancements, window replacements and new playgrounds are planned for the elementary and intermediate schools. The parent drop-off and parking areas at the intermediate and high schools would be redesigned.

Boiler, fire alarm and security upgrades are planned for the elementary school. At the junior high, the library, gymnasium and nurses suite would be renovated and the mechanical systems improved.

The high school’s bus loop would be extended, its garage renovated and the press box at the high school athletic field replaced.

“Upgrading these items now will not only provide better experiences for students and staff, it will allow for our facilities to run at maximum efficiency,” Superintendent Thomas Turck wrote in explaining the project. “If these items are not addressed through this capital project, the district will not be able to leverage state funding and will need to use the general budget to accomplish some of the immediate health, safety and system life cycle needs, which may impact taxes.”

The district states it proposes to pay for the project through state building aid, managing debt payments and savings in its building reserve fund. There is no expected local tax increase, Turck said.