Flint, MI— Flint Schools is accepting project proposals for the district’s 22 vacant and unoccupied properties using an open-ended bidding process.
Board members explained the process during a board meeting Aug. 11. Attorney Gordon VanWieren of Thrun Law Firm was also there to answer questions.
The board is asking community members to send an email to Executive Assistant Monaca Elston at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Vacant Property for Sale” and their proposal. The board will make all final decisions on property sales.
Which properties are available is currently unknown. VanWieren said the board wants to find interested parties first and then decide which ones to sell.
Treasurer Laura MacIntyre made a motion to list all properties and their tax documents on Flint Schools’ website.
“I’d like to make a motion to make this available so that it’s easy to access. And so that there’s absolutely no confusion or appearance of a lack of transparency,” MacIntyre said.
The motion passed 5-2 with Vice President Verra Perry and Trustee Diana Wright absent.
President Carol McIntosh said the information should post by next week, but the timeline depends on how long it takes VanWieren to draft website copy.
Though the list will be comprehensive of all vacant properties owned by Flint Schools, VanWieren reminded residents that not all properties listed will be available for sale.
Board members did not say how they plan on choosing which properties to sell. Interested buyers will be responsible for performing their own inspections, engineering assessments, environmental assessments, and scheduling walkthroughs.
Due to the poor condition of many of the buildings, VanWieren said he suggests interested buyers include contingencies in their bids, meaning the proposed offer price would be contingent on the outcome of the assessments.
“It’s up to the individual bidder to secure anyone who they feel is necessary to look at the building because it is very important,” VanWieren said. “A lot of the older buildings have boilers; they tend to be expensive. Some buildings have asbestos. So, it’s critical that any bidder know exactly what they’re buying.”
During the meeting, community members asked the board what to include in the proposals and what kind of projects they hope to see.
Board members provided no specifications but said the plan must demonstrate long-term success.
“You need to have your business plan and how you will be able to effectively operate whatever ideas or business ventures you are going to go into. We want to see a realistic forecast on how you will survive and be able to maintain a whole school building,” McIntosh said.
Flint Schools has no bonded debt tied to any of the properties, meaning they can accept “fair market value” which is determined by intrinsic worth rather than the laws of supply and demand.
“To me, it’s important that this is our property. You’re part of the district, we’re the district, and this isn’t strictly about financials. There’s more to value than just a dollar amount. And, so, in my mind, and what I’m looking for, and what I’m hoping that the board comes together, which is looking at, not just the bids, the dollar bids that are going into these properties. But what’s behind that,” MacIntyre said.
Currently, there is no deadline for proposals. McIntosh said they will likely close the bidding period to residents early next year.
Board members said they designed the process so that that Flint residents had first access to the properties.
“This is the opportunity for you, the community to have the chance to get what is yours before outsiders,” McIntosh said.
Once the bidding period closes to residents, they will open it to all investors.
“We will open it up to others and outsiders, and whoever comes in with their money for those properties that we are trying to get rid of, we are going to give those properties to them,” McIntosh said. “We can’t afford to keep sitting on them.”
Flint resident Aujanee Young told board members she was concerned about the equity of the bidding process.
“There’s sort of a few months on the timeline that the district would like to unload these properties, but there’s no clear structure, from my interpretation, on how the public goes about doing that. And at the end of the year, after multiple people from the community have navigated this not-so-clear system, it’ll be opened up to larger organizations who will then have an opportunity to come through possibly a more refined process. That does not seem equitable. So, I strongly urge the board to be able to think very strongly about what that process should look like and how to share that information to the community.” Young said.
Board members said, along with the properties that will be listed on the website, they plan to include information on resources for community members.