B-C-S investigates practicality of demolishing Middle School

Feb 13, 2024 | Featured, Schools | 0 comments

The Oak Harbor Middle School may be demolished if grant money is available through the county land bank. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

At a recent Benton-Carroll-Salem (B-C-S) School District Board meeting, the board voted to pursue a grant through the Ottawa County Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program (land bank) as it investigates the viability of demolishing the former Oak Harbor Middle School building. Demolition is one option under consideration for the future of the closed school.

B-C-S Treasurer Cajon Keeton said the school administration received estimates of $800,000 to $1 million for demolition services, which is beyond the school’s budget.

“Without the grant, we may not be able to demolish the building,” Keeton said. “We are looking at all options.”

Renovating the building for alternate school district use is not a viable option. Repairs and upgrades would simply cost too much.

“We have three different furnaces in the building. One is no longer working, and they don’t make parts to repair them. The plumbing and electrical are behind poured cement walls, not block walls, because of the age of the building,” said B-C-S Superintendent Cathy Bergman. “The amount of money it would take to bring it up to code is just too much. That’s not the best use of taxpayers’ money.”

Oak Harbor Middle School served local children for over 100 years. Now, school administration is looking at various options for its future. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

The land bank has not yet made a decision on its ability to fund the demolition.

“Whether they are willing to help us will affect our decision about what to do with the building,” Bergman said.

School administration is not insensitive to the emotional ties between the public and the building. They are searching for the best big-picture option that addresses fiscal responsibility and good-practice use of the space.

“It’s not an easy decision,” Bergman said. “We don’t want the building to sit neglected and become an eyesore for our community.”

Another possible use for the property is green space, and local EMS leaders have attended board meetings to determine the feasibility of transforming the property for EMS use. Bergman said a few private citizens have enquired about the building but did not follow through with bids once they understood the cost of remodeling and upgrading the building.

“We want to be open and honest and transparent with the community through this process,” Bergman said. “We are following all protocols and procedures.”

Anyone interested in purchasing the property can call the B-C-S Schools administration office at 419-898-6210.

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