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Mid-Continent contracts to sell property

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

A property sale agreement means Mid-Continent University could recall a portion of employees who were terminated earlier this week because of an inability to meet payroll. The development comes on the heels of the announcement that the school will cease operations within three months.

The university is working to finalize the sale of property on Pecan Drive in Paducah, according to Chief of Staff Bill Bartleman. He said there is a sale contract but the sale will not be finalized for about a month to allow time for completion of title searches. He refused to elaborate on the name of the buyer or the amount citing the in-progress nature of the transaction.

He said the school had received a large amount of interest from buyers regarding the property and were still getting inquiries as of Thursday afternoon. The college had a different interested party who dropped out Tuesday, which would have allowed for less than the 100 percent layoffs of faculty and staff members.

The college bought four tracts of land totaling 19.245 acres at Pecan Drive and Alben Barkley Drive in June 2008. Mid-Continent purchased the land for $594,496 from Mike and Flora Smith at an auction by Kurtz Auction and Realty Company of Owensboro. At the time, the school planned to use the land to centralize its Advantage Program for Paducah students with classrooms, offices, a small library and computer lab, according to Sun files.

The sale would allow some displaced employees to return to work with a paid salary. Bartleman said leaders don't know yet how many workers could be recalled but would send notices in several weeks. The focus would primarily be on rehiring faculty members and employees who are essential to students completing in-progress classes and reaching graduation, set for May 10, he said.

The Mid-Continent Board of Trustees met for more than three hours Tuesday night before announcing the decision to lay off about 150 faculty, administration and staff members. The university had previously laid off about 40 employees in the recruitment and Advantage programs for a total near 200 displaced workers.

The school's closure date remains June 30 and the Board of Trustees would have to approve any change or delay to that date. Funds from the property sale would be used in the short term to maintain university operations. The school's financial crisis stems from incorrect and incomplete U.S. Department of Education student financial aid paperwork creating a financial shortfall of more than $9 million since 2011.

Mid-Continent has remained open because of faculty and staff members who have volunteered their time so current seniors can graduate. More than half of the employees who were terminated Tuesday night were on campus Wednesday and every scheduled class has been taught in the two days, Bartleman said.

He said school leaders are currently working to make arrangements for the future secure storage of student records. The Kentucky Attorney General's Office released a statement Wednesday that the school's situation is being monitored. The office also sent letters to Mid-Continent administrators about the legal obligation to maintain all records, which would include all student transcripts.

On-campus students will be able to remain in the dormitories until the closure date. He said the school now plans to keep the food vendor, for the more than 100 students who eat in the cafeteria daily. Mid-Continent officials are reaching out to nearby churches to sponsor the cost of student meals. The college also received enough donations for the school's baseball team to finish the season this weekend. To donate, call the school at 270-247-8521 and ask for the president's office.

The campus will be closed Friday for a preset Good Friday holiday but will reopen Monday on 100 percent volunteer basis, he said.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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