letter to the editor

Marathon Manor: Not To Worry

by Larry Murray…….

Dr. Larry Murray

For those of you who have been wondering what was to become of the Marathon Manor property, wonder no more. For those of you who have been worried about how the School District would recoup its $7.4 million plus investment of 12 years ago, worry no more. All will be revealed at the School Board meeting on June 13.

A School Board member has repeatedly assured me that all would be fine with the Marathon Manor property despite the passage of time. After all, he told me, property always increases in value. As Mark Twain once said about land: “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” Conversely, a prominent Marathon realtor told me several years ago that the property was a classic white elephant with no resale value whatever. A combination of factors, he said, including the proximity to Marathon High School, diminished any interest by a prospective buyer. There was a time when the building had some value for its ROGO units, but that has long since disappeared.

According to an article by Sara Matthis in the May 26, 2017 issue of the “Marathon Weekly”, the School District has determined that the athletic fields at Marathon High School are subject to repeated flooding and must be replaced. You have to ask yourself how long has there been flooding and when did the District discover that fact. After all, Marathon High School has been in place for well over a decade. Perhaps it is global warming at work.

According to Pat Lefere, executive director of operations and planning, “This all started a couple of years ago when we realized we needed to raise the existing athletic fields at Marathon High School due to flooding. It was time to make improvements and reconfigure–more parking, raised fields, more fields.”

Obviously, the District had quietly discontinued quite some time ago any consideration of attempting to sell the property and recoup its $7.4 million investment. And do not forget the $500,000 that the District spent vainly trying to fill a borrow pit on the property. Despite urging, it never issued an RFP to solicit interest in the purchase of the property. If you do not ask, how will you know?

The District has already contracted, with little fanfare, Rowe Architects to the tune of $250,000 to determine how the Marathon Manor property could be used for athletics, principally for a track now that the Marathon High School track and field team has won the 2017 district championship. It remains to be seen exactly what the new athletic enterprise will look like.

Rowe Architects will make its presentation, hopefully including cost estimates, at the June 13 meeting. The School Board may walk the property as part of the evaluation, though it is unclear if the public will be invited to stroll. According to Lefere, there are two or three options. “If we used all, or almost all, of the property that would mean a full-size regulation track, practice field space and more parking.”

There will also be a public workshop at a later date and that should be a very interesting forum. On the one hand, who will argue against the need for athletic fields to replace those that have become unusable because of flooding? On the other, what will the public say about using a $7.4 million property for those fields? There was considerable consternation a few years ago when the county lost a small fortune with the sale of the Hickory House restaurant on Stock Island. I expect that there will be similar disdain to creating athletic fields on one of the most expensive pieces of property in Monroe County. In the end, the Monroe County School District may be able to brag that it has the most expensive track and field facility in the state.

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