Bids were opened recently on demolition of the old middle school on 10th Street. The City of Salem sought bids on demolition or development of the school and associated buildings, which have fallen into disrepair years of neglect.

Five demolition bids ranging from $294,000 to more than $411,000 were received on the old middle school property by the March 29 deadline, with Donald Maggi Inc. the low bidder.

No proposals to develop the property were submitted.

City officials were hoping a developer would emerge for the old middle school – constructed as Salem’s first high school in 1910 – and the adjacent gymnasium and cafeteria located on 10th Street.

Architects and engineers estimated it would cost $5.59 million to renovate the structures, possibly offset in part by $1.74 million in state and federal tax credits.

The cost of demolishing all three buildings, abatement of hazardous materials, removal of all materials, grading, backfill, seed and straw, and providing the city with a usable site was estimated at about $361,000 by engineers. Hazardous materials, including lead, asbestos and mercury, must be removed and disposed of according to federal, state, and local regulatory requirements.

City administrator Ray Walden said he would discuss the bids with the citizens committee overseeing the project in the next few days with an eye toward presenting the committee’s recommendation to the board of aldermen next week. The committee will be asked to recommend a bid award and a way to fund it.

“This is not something we budgeted for in this year’s budget,” he said.

If the board elects to award the demolition right away, that would require a budget adjustment. Another option would be to include it in next year’s budget, which begins July 1.

“We intentionally asked for the bids to be good for 90 days so we could do either one,” Walden said. All five bids meet the city’s specifications, according to consulting engineer Archer Elgin.

He acknowledged there is a sense of urgency surrounding the project. The property has been sitting vacant for many years and is deteriorating rapidly.

“I would say the sooner we deal with it the better, and it’s going to cost the same,” he said. “If everybody’s of a mind to proceed then that would be fine with me. I think we ought to look for ways to do it sooner rather than later.”

Considering a budget amendment now would leave one less issue to deal with in the new budget, he said.

Possible uses for the property include a neighborhood park or, due to the elevation, another city water tower, Walden said.