DUPONT — The Ben Franklin Kindergarten Center has been vacant for nearly three years, but that could change within the next three years.
At a special public meeting held on Jan. 19, Dupont council members agreed to sell the building to the Luzerne County Housing Authority for $290,000, the same price the borough paid when it purchased the building from the Pittston Area School District last June.
According to council president Stanley Knick Jr., the single-level structure that covers 4.26 acres will be torn down to make way for senior housing.
The Luzerne County Housing Authority has three years to come up with the money or else the agreement between both parties will be null and void.
“It’s not sold as of now,” said council vice president Mark Kowalczyk. “It’s a contract that they have to come up with the money and produce the plan they promised us. They have three years to do that and hopefully they do that and follow through with what their plan is. It’ll be a great building for the town.”
The senior housing building will have 36 units and possibly be a few feet taller than the kindergarten center.
The new development will be put on the tax market.
Talks amongst the council members about making way for senior housing began a few months after the borough purchased the kindergarten center, Knick said.
At the special meeting, voting amongst council members to sell the building was a unanimous decision and members of the public offered their opinions, too.
“Some people didn’t know why we were selling it to Luzerne County,” he said. “They felt that we could put townhouses there, but by state statute we can’t sell it to a private developer. We have to keep it or use it for something that betters the citizens of Dupont. That’s where senior housing comes in; it helps elderly people who can’t afford their homes anymore.”
Kowalczyk said the borough will still own the school’s basketball and tennis courts for public use, but the priority of the project is to ensure senior citizens who cannot afford their own homes anymore can stay in the area.
“The greatest need is for senior housing in this immediate area,” said Kowalczyk. “The average age of the community is 62 and over.”
The Ben Franklin Kindergarten Center, which sits at 611 Walnut St., was open for 50 years before closing in July 2013 due to problems with the building.
Students were transferred to the Pittston Area Primary Center in Hughestown for the following school year.