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Firm wants old Jenkins school for apartments

A Lexington company hopes to be able to turn the old Jenkins High School building into an apartment complex for senior citizens.

A number of Jenkins residents — including Mayor G.C. Kincer, City Administrator Todd DePriest, and former Mayor Charles Dixon — attended the January meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court this week to ask the court to consider an offer by A.U. Associates of Lexington to buy the building to convert it into senior apartments.

Johan Graham, representing A.U. Associates, told the court the company specializes in working with historic buildings to turn them into facilities that serve the community while maintaining the historic appearance of the property.

Graham said the plan calls for converting the space to 25 to 30 senior apartments, and said the company has applied for preliminary support from state and federal funds. Graham told the court the company isn’t asking the county for any funding, but hopes to negotiate a purchase price that is low enough to keep the overall cost of the project down to a level where low rents can be charged.

District Five Magistrate Fleming, who represents the Jenkins area, asked Graham if it was true that the initial offer on the building, in which the court has invested almost $1.5 million, was $45,000. Graham said the figure cited by Fleming is correct, but added that it was a first offer and the company is open to negotiation.

However, Graham also told the court its options for unloading the old school are few and far between and said the building will continue to deteriorate if it sits unused.

Fleming said he has been a long time supporter of the school, but added that he felt the price was ridiculously low. Letcher Judge/ Executive Jim Ward said he had asked for a state appraisal of the building and said the court will have to stay pretty close to the figure the state puts on the property. He added that if the court wishes to sell the school for less, it will require a good deal of negotiating with the state.

Graham said A.U. Associates has done a number of similar conversions in Kentucky and had just completed two, one in Glasgow and one in Monroe County. He said the company typically spends about $109,000 per unit and the more the initial price of the property the less that can be spent on the conversion. He added that the center will generate tax revenue for the city.

Ward said the court could take no further action until it receives the results of the state appraisal.

Fleming said he is not opposed to the project and wants to do whatever he can to move Jenkins forward. He said he is very aware of the need for senior housing and is willing to negotiate after he sees the appraisal.

“I know it will be nice,” said Fleming. “I think we can get together.”

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