Tri-County buys Wallace school

March 29, 2018

STERLING – Tri-County Opportunities Council will buy Wallace Educational Center for $1. What the social service agency will do with it – aside from renovate – has not yet been decided.

For now, though, the agency will start making plans, lots of plans

Tri-County, which has leased space in the former West End elementary school for its Head Start program for more than a decade, will take ownership July 1.

The Sterling School District, which has been quietly shopping for a buyer for the aging 1927 structure at 506 W. Fourth St., offered the deal to its tenant, and the Tri-County Board OK’d the purchase Tuesday.

Head Start will stay put, and Tri-County’s other programs will remain based at its Rock Falls office at 405 Emmons Ave.

“I think were happy with this,” Tri-County President and CEO Terri Lawrence said Thursday. “If the school district auctioned Wallace, we wouldn’t have been able to find a space in Sterling and Rock Falls that fits our [Head Start] needs.

“There’s always a risk purchasing older buildings, but we got as much information as possible before the board made a decision.”

Wallace, appraised in December for $225,000, needs $1 million to $1.5 million in renovations to bring it up to school code requirements, Superintendent Tad Everett has said. Since Tri-County is not a school, it doesn’t face the same code regulations.

On its to-do list: hire a custodian, switch utilities, and prioritize a 5-year health and safety plan.

Per the contract, Tri-County must provide that plan to the school district, and make those improvements within those 5 years. Should the agency later sell the building, a percentage of the profits would be given to the school district.

“We will have to plan yearly inspections before we tackle the larger items such as the roof, parking lot and HVAC,” Lawrence said. “We have lots of planning in the next 6 to 8 months.”

The Lee-Ogle-Whiteside Regional Office of Education also rents space in Wallace for its Early Childhood Education program, its Education Outreach program and its Parents as Teachers group.

Whether ROE will continue to do so is yet to be decided.