SHICKSHINNY—The Garrison Elementary School building was purchased at public auction Saturday morning at a bid of $51,500, with a woman from Columbia County submitting the high bid.
The auction was conducted by Dustin C. Snyder of the Berwick area.
The woman who made the winning bid insisted on remaining anonymous, but her name, Helina Shultz, was obtained from a roster of bidders' names at the auction. She said she wanted to withhold her name so as not to jeopardize the deal.
She said the intent of the purchase is to sustain the building for the people of Shickshinny.
We're not going to demolish it. We're going to keep it for Shickshinny, she said.
According to borough Councilman Barry Noss that is good news.
We were afraid it would be knocked down, he said.
The woman was one of six bidders. During a process, which took about 30 minutes, she appeared to be talking to a colleague via cellphone. Near the end, the bidding appeared to be stymied at $50,000, but after a few minutes, and apparently after consulting by phone with her partner, the winning bidder raised the offer to $51,500.
Two other bidders also participated by cellphone. Greg Snyder, father of the auctioneer, said he was in communication with a person from Missouri, and Justine Snyder, the auctioneer's wife, said she was bidding on behalf of a person from Bernsville, Pa.
Northwest Area Superintendent Ronald Gervera was in attendance to accept a signed contract and a deposit on the purchase. He said the school board was hoping to get between $30,000 and $50,000 for the structure, which has stood as a borough landmark since 1936. He said the board is happy to get $51,500.
Gervera said the district, which ceased conducting classes there in 2009, decided upon a public auction when others efforts to sell the structure failed. School board member Alton Farver estimated the board had spent $12,000 to heat the building last year, while Gervera said additional expenses were incurred for electricity and security.
Noss said the structure was donated by the late Forest Garrison, a Shickshinny native who achieved major financial success in coal and railroads in West Virginia. Noss said he recalls hearing that Garrison, along with other members of his family, did the construction on the site, which originally contained a lumber/grist mill.
The Garrison Fund, a trust established by Garrison, still exists in the amount of nearly $2 million. The borough benefits from the interest and dividends of that trust.
During the September 2011 flood the structure sustained major water damage. In the aftermath, the walls on the first floor were gutted and mud and debris were cleaned up, but no renovations were done. The purchaser will obtain the building as-is.