(2013 Courier file photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
(2013 Courier file photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
A group of concerned Dupont citizens told Madison Consolidated Schools administrators that they don't want the vacant Dupont Elementary School sold at auction.

More than 75 people packed into the Dupont Fire Station on Tuesday to discuss the school which was closed two years ago.

The town is at a crossroads because of a state law requiring school districts to maintain unoccupied school buildings for two years after closing.

The school board closed Dupont and Anderson elementary schools in 2012. Since then, Anderson has been converted to an early education center, but Dupont has remained vacant.

Since the mandatory two-year period is over for MCS, the school district has to offer the building back to the township for "parks and recreation purposes."

If the township elects not to take back the property, the school district can hold a public auction for the land and sell it to the highest bidder.

The consensus from people in attendance was clear: Keep Dupont Elementary School in the hands of the township.

"I think people are somewhat desperate to make something happen for the school," Doug Hobbs said. "People are just grabbing at anything they can come up with to save the school."

Keeping the property under township control will be easier said than done. The annual cost of maintaining the school - including insurance, security and upkeep - is close to $32,000, said MCS Director of Operations Mike Frazier.

Township Trustee Betty Scully said the township gets a yearly budget of $15,000, and most of that money goes toward the Dupont Fire Department.

"We need to have something in place to help us pay for this," Scully said.

Hobbs said, ideally, he'd like to see the school open and operating again. Even if that's not possible, he doesn't want to see the building sold at auction, where it would be sold to the highest bidder.

"If it gets away from the township, that's it. It's gone forever," Hobbs said.

Jon Adams wants to keep the property in the township as well, but wants to be cautious about taking on the expense.

"I would love nothing more," Adams said. "My dad spent 30 years working for that school. I did all my grade school there... But there's no money in that budget."

Adams, who is on the Township Trustee Advisory Board, said he hopes to see more discussion about what the township can do.

Hobbs agreed.

"I think there needs to be lots of discussion," he said.

Scully said she will meet with an attorney this week and schedule a township meeting to develop a strategy.

If the township does not take back the property, MCS attorney Mark Wynn said Indiana law requires that the school district acquire three appraisals for the property. Proceeds from the auction would go to the MCS capitol projects fund.