MUSKEGON, Mich. - An auction next week for two school buildings in the Muskegon area could breathe life into what has now become two separate decade-long community eyesores.
The former Froebel School in the Jackson Hill neighborhood and the former Phillips Elementary in Norton Shores on E. Broadway Avenue were purchased in 2014 by the Life Training Campus, owned by investor Ervin Lamie.
Over the last few years, little to no development happened at the schools and property taxes were not paid in time leading to a tax foreclosure.
Both schools will now be auctioned off next Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 12 p.m. at the Shoreline Inn and Conference Center in Muskegon.
The properties are being sold together at a minimum bid of $85,250. The schools must be purchased together according to the auction's web site and there has to be a promise that Froebel will be torn down in order for a buyer to purchase the property.
In 2016, the 13 Watchdog team started asking questions about the sale of two former Muskegon school buildings after we found the Muskegon School District was unaware Lamie had a long court history and had previously filed for bankruptcy. Muskegon Public Schools sold Froebel for $1,000 and Phillips for $500 just to get rid of them with the hopes somebody would bring them back to life.
Lamie quarreled with leaders in Muskegon County regarding the value of the property and the fact Lamie would have to pay property taxes on the schools because he had not fully developed his non-profit company. The buildings were, in the opinion of Muskegon County Equalization Director Donna VanderVries, not technically occupied.
Court records show Lamie had filed for bankruptcy multiple times leading up to the purchase of the schools.
Then-Muskegon Superintendent Jon Felske said in 2016 the school district was unaware of the previous bankruptcy and was disappointed to see the properties had not been cleaned up.
"He did bring a wonderful team in and was very eager to want to purchase the properties," Felske said.
"As far as them digging to see if there was anything negative about purchasing the buildings, I don't think they would have truly found anything that was positively negative about selling it to [me]," Lamie said back in 2016.
Lamie did not respond to a request for comment on the auction.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.