Property auction gets only 3 bidders

The Richmond County school board could face a $1 million shortfall in its current budget after an attempt to auction off surplus properties received only three bids.

This summer, the board gambled that it would be able to generate at least $1.5 million by selling seven properties to balance this year's budget.

But when bidding closed Wednesday afternoon, only three bids had been submitted. Two of those were below the appraised values of the properties, which had been set as the minimum bid amount.

It will be recommended to the school board that Augusta Capital LLC be allowed to purchase the Martha Lester School. Augusta Capital bid $241,000 for the vacant 1688 Broad Street property, which backs up to the Augusta Canal. The appraised value of the school is $235,000.

"As you know, Augusta Capital has been instrumental in the rehabilitation of several historic buildings in Augusta, including two historic schools," Anne Catherine Murray, of Augusta Capital, wrote in an e-mail. "In addition, we have a strong interest in the revitalization of Harrisburg. With that in mind, saving Martha Lester School seems like an excellent opportunity."

She would not discuss plans for the property, but said if the bid goes through the school will be saved. Clay Boardman is the CEO of Augusta Capital.

New Hope Church of God also bid on Martha Lester, but only offered $23,500.

The only other bid was by Augusta Wood Preserving Inc. for the old Hornsby Elementary School, which is next door at 415 Laney-Walker Boulevard. The company offered $200,000 to purchase the site, which is valued at $300,000.

Last week, the school board pulled the Floyd Graham School from its list of surplus properties, choosing instead to sell the school to the city of Hephzibah for $235,000, plus an additional $30,000, which the board would have had to spend to remove gas tanks on the property.

"I thought all along we would never get the prices we wanted," said Frank Dolan, chairman of the school board's finance committee. "Times are tough."

When asked what the board would do now, Mr. Dolan responded: "Cut, cut, cut."

The school board is expected to take action on the bids when it meets in February.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.