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Driscoll sale to Addison finalized
By Elisabeth Mistretta | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/30/2010 12:00 AM

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The village of Addison and the Joliet Diocese finalized an agreement late Wednesday afternoon for the village to purchase the former Driscoll Catholic High School site for $2.9 million, with some of the proceeds going to scholarships.

Addison will lease the 19-acre property for $1 a year to DuPage High School District 88, so Addison Trail High School students can use the football and baseball fields for athletic practices and parking. Officials said a soccer field may also be added later.

District 88 will maintain the property and allow other groups, such as the Addison Park District and Addison Rec Club, to use the land as needed.

The former school building will be demolished, since officials said it requires too much maintenance and repair to be cost-effective.

The sale awakens mixed feelings in alumni, parents and staff, who tried to save the the 43-year-old school from closing in May 2009. The Christian Brothers, who ran the school, said declining enrollment and financial woes made Driscoll unsustainable.

Supporters rapidly raised money and created a proposal to buy Driscoll, but their offer was rejected.

"I don't think I can fault them for closing the school, but I can fault them for the way it happened," said Kevin Deuschle, who helped organize the Save Driscoll campaign. "I think the Brothers were surprised by the momentum of the community and they didn't know what to do with it. Like they had no plan except to close down the school. But the fact that it will benefit the community is a paramount concern. I'm just disappointed by the process."

The village earlier this month borrowed $3.5 million, with $2.9 million earmarked for the purchase and the other $600,000 paying for the demolition. The loan will result in a property tax increase of about $16 a year for a home valued at $300,000, officials said.

Addison is a home rule community and did not need to seek residents' permission during elections to issue the tax-backed bonds, which carry an interest rate of 4.5 percent.

Village President Larry Hartwig added that Addison chose taxable bonds, which allow the village to potentially sell the property at a profit in the future. That would eliminate the property tax that pays for the bonds.

Hartwig added that any future commercial development would compliment the current residential neighborhood, which is primarily single-family houses, a church and elementary schools.

Currently the Driscoll property remains untouched except for maintenance by the Diocese. Officials said Wednesday the ongoing maintenance, legal and closing costs along with the initial debts of Driscoll total about $ 1.9 million. The Diocese assumed $1.1 million of that debt and the Christian Brothers will shoulder $800,000.

They added that remaining funds from the Driscoll sale will be used to create a restricted endowment fund to provide scholarships for low-income students attending Catholic high schools in the Diocese. A spokesman said this fund, which will be part of the Diocesan Education Foundation, will begin with a balance of roughly $1.8 million.