GENEVA — At a meeting on Wednesday night, the Geneva Area City Schools Board of Education requested updated prices for a trio of potential locations for a new office.
Earlier this year, staff was moved from the district’s offices on South Eagle Street after a fire inspection found issues with the building.
District Treasurer Kevin Lillie gave a brief run-down of the history of the search for a new office. The district sold the current office, and started paying rent on the building in 2018, Lillie said.
The search began in 2008 with a preliminary space analysis, Lillie said.
The city provided the district with a list of potential offices during former Superintendent Mary Zappitelli’s tenure, Lillie said.
“I remember some of those properties being the office building that sits on South Broadway right near Pine Street, ... Marcy Chevrolet, that vacant building was on the list at the time, but was a lot bigger than what the district needed,” Lillie said. About 20 to 30 sites were proposed at the time, he said.
The district purchased a house on Route 84, in front of Geneva High School, in 2013, Lillie said.
“It wasn’t suitable by itself, but the plan would have been to build an addition on that,” he said.
Lillie said the proposed cost of the renovations to that building, including installing an elevator to make the location compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, was between $1 and $1.2 million.
The district considered a number of buildings in downtown Geneva, but the price of either purchasing or renovating the buildings were not acceptable, Lillie said.
Using the Geneva High School Media Center was one proposed solution, with a September estimate putting the price for renovations at $640,000, not including engineering fees and contingencies. The district was approached in September by the owner of the former Pairings building, located just east of the South Eagle Street office. The building’s owner offered to renovate and expand the building, at a cost of $775,000.
Multiple board members said they were not open to using the media center after pushback from students and the public.
Board Member Richard Arndt was vocally opposed to using the Pairings building.
“I have never seen a project, something being built, come in under cost,” he said. “I don’t think [the Pairings property is] any type of setting or area for a board office to be,” he said.
“It sounds like now, what we have here is an immediate need where we need to do something,” Board Member Richard Dana said.
Board Member Jamie Ortiz said she finds it hard to believe that the price for renovating the media center and the price for the renovated Pairings building would be honored, since they are from September.
“I think, no matter what we do, we’re going to be over $1 million,” she said. Something needs to be done with the house along Route 84, Ortiz said.
Board President Sarah Fisher said the facilities committee for the district’s strategic plan discussed the possibility of constructing a new building for the board office.
“I find it hard to believe that it could cost that much more to build a new building,” she said.
Board Member Amber Metzler said she doesn’t mind looking into additional options, but the board should be aware that getting new estimates will take time.
Arndt said he believes the proposed prices for renovating the house in front of the high school are not accurate.
Dana said an updated price for the renovated Pairings building would be helpful, at least for comparison.
“I’d rather have more information and not less,” Dana said.
Ortiz said the district already has five properties, including 30 acres at the high school on which they could build.
Arndt said he has no desire to put the Geneva Board of Education office at the Pairings building on South Eagle Street.
“It’s not a nice area,” Arndt said. “And the city knows about it. And I don’t think that that’s where our board office should be. There are nicer areas in Geneva. That one right there is not, and there’s a reason that board office is in the shape that it’s in.”
Fisher said she was in favor of getting a price for the house and a new building construction, and considering other options in the future.
“I think we’ve got to start tonight by doing something,” Fisher said.
Arndt made a motion to get an updated price for renovating the house in front of the high school, and a cost for building a new board office somewhere on district property.
The motion passed unanimously.
Lillie said there may be a cost for the updated prices in the area of the high school because of the potential need of core samples from the site to test soil conditions. Work had to be done on the soil at the high school before the building was constructed, Lillie said.
Dana made a motion to request an updated cost for the renovated Parings building. The motion passed three to two, with Arndt and Board Member Jamie Ortiz voting against it.