MORTON — The Morton School District will buy a vacant lot just northwest of Morton Junior High School for $75,000.

School Board members voted 6-0 Oct. 3 to approve the purchase of two parcels at 520 N. Second Ave., at the corner of East Harrison Street. A home on the 108-foot-by-150-foot lot was torn down this summer.

The board discussed the lot at its Sept. 19 meeting, but no price was mentioned because negotiations between the property owner and Superintendent Jeff Hill were continuing.

The price was made public Sept. 29, when the board meeting agenda was posted to the school district's website.

Board members said most feedback they received from the community about a possible purchase of the lot was positive, but a few district residents expressed concerns about a lack of sufficient time for public input. Board members did not delay the vote.

In 2013, the board gathered public input for a month before it unanimously approved the purchase of a 125-acre parcel of vacant land on the west side of Fourth Avenue, south of Queenwood Road, for $4.4 million.

The land remains vacant.

"We've approved spending millions of dollars on a project after getting possible costs a few days before a board meeting. There's no reason to lay over this vote," board President Tom Neeley said Oct. 3 about the North Second Avenue lot purchase.

Board members said they were comfortable with the $75,000 price.

"It's a small amount," said board member Bart Rinkenberger.

"As they say in real estate, location, location, location. We're getting two parcels in the heart of town for a decent price," said board member Jeff Schmidgall. "Now we can begin to address the needs of the junior high."

"It's a good price, and our options for the lot are open," Neeley said. "We'll find a use for it."

A parking lot is a probable use. The junior high, 225 E. Jackson St., has parking issues during the school day and at after-school events.

The school also has traffic flow and other physical plant problems with a growing enrollment. There are 479 students in grades 7-8 this school year.
How the North Second Avenue property will fit into a long-term facilities plan in the

K-12 school district could be discussed in November at a special board meeting called to discuss formulating a facilities plan.

Board member Michelle Bernier missed the Oct. 3 meeting and did not vote on the property purchase.

Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.