The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 9, 2013

Conneaut BOE, City Council building deal in jeopardy

CONNEAUT —

A possible partnership between the city of Conneaut and its school district to share use of a commercial building is in jeopardy over the cost of rehabilitating the structure, officials said Wednesday.

Members of the Conneaut Board of Education, during an evening meeting with City Council, indicated they are cooling on the idea of acquiring a building on Harbor Street near Jackson Street. The price tag to address contamination issues and repairs to the building are big concerns, the members said.

"Our interest is waning a little bit," said Cris Newcomb, board president.

However, the board would consider other options for the building, such as leasing space for storage or even a school bus garage.

Earlier this year, both sides warmed to the idea of teaming up on the building, which the city is poised to acquire through a years-old foreclosure action. A few months ago, both entities talked of sharing mechanics that could service school buses as well as dump trucks. However, there is a chemical contamination concern with a portion of the property, and sections of the building need attention. During the meeting, City Manager Tim Eggleston mentioned $3 million may be needed to square away all the issues. Even if split, that's too much for the cash-strapped district to take on, council was told.

"There are more hurdles than we expected," Newcomb said. "I guess we're back in the brainstorming phase."

Besides the money, the district foresees a problem with its classified employees over possible shared services, said Superintendent Kent Houston.

"Do the hurdles outweigh the positives?" he said.

Given the multi-million tab to restore an older building, it may be more prudent to explore new construction, school board members said Wednesday.

The meeting, one of three joint meetings scheduled during the year, saw a bumpy start when Eggleston informed the group a chance to obtain a grant to finance a feasibility study for the shared use had expired. Money no longer exists for such shared use studies, he said.

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