3 Bidders Seek To Buy Vacant School
By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
OTEGO – The Oneonta Christian Academy is running out of room.
“We are only limited by our size,” Elizabeth Cook, director of programming and 12th-grade English teacher, told the Unatego Central School Board Monday, Oct. 28.
The OCA was one of three bidders trying to convince the school board to sell them the Otego Elementary School, which it closed in the summer of 2018.
Dirig Design of Wells Bridge, a development firm, and Granite Data Solutions, a high-tech company from California that seeks to hire disabled veterans, are the other two bidders.
The Unatego school board is planning a public meeting Nov. 4 to announce the winning bid.
“We don’t even have a gym,” Cook said. “The entire school tears down every classroom to do an event; every single kid puts their hands on every desk and every chair in order to make the space do what we need it to – and it’s exhausting.”
Last year alone, the school saw a 13 percent increase in enrollment, reaching a five-year high of 92 students.
The academy, now at 158 River St., Oneonta, has a vision of a larger school and what it would mean for their current students, as well as any future attendees, Cook said.
The former 34,000-square-foot Otego School on Route 7 in the middle of the village is big enough for that vision. “We will only use about two-thirds of the building,” says Cook, offering the rest as rental space for local businesses, as well as an affordable event space for community members.
In the future, the idea is to develop early education programs that would benefit Otego families.
In his presentation, Adam Dirig, CEO of Dirig Design, said he has a seven-year plan to develop a mixed-use Otego Commons – nine apartments, 16 offices and community space, including updates to the gymnasium, hallways, and bathrooms.
School board member Kenneth Olson expressed concern: “Sixteen office spaces is aggressive for an area like ours.” But Dirig expressed confidence in the concept.
He also expressed his enthusiasm about the future of the building, calling it “a good symbol of the community – I don’t want it to go to waste.”
“There’s a need in Otego for apartments,” adding Dirig project manager Dan Dahlstrom. “There are also a lot of businesses in Oneonta that don’t need a Main Street location.”
Granite Data President Brigg Goodwin described his plan to develop the school into a full-service New York/East Coast sales and logistics branch of the company.
Goodwin, who grew up in a small town of 3,500 in Iowa, relates to Otego’s circumstances and believes that his company’s proposal will help revitalize the area.
“It makes such a huge impact on small communities, to be able to bring in jobs like that,” he says. “Altruism is dying with the information age, we don’t rely on each other as much and, call me old-fashioned, I like altruism, I like people who jump in and help out.”
His company’s proposal hopes to focus hiring efforts on local veterans first. “If there’s an Otego resident who’s a veteran and an Otego resident who’s a non-veteran, we’ll lean towards the veteran,” he says.