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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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For the first time in four decades, the Benton-Carroll-Salem School District is looking to build a new facility.

On Aug. 2, a special vote will be held asking for voters to approve a 4.4-mill levy for the construction of a new kindergarten through seventh grade school. It would cost $43.6 million and be paid over a 37-year period. The initiative would also pay for renovations to Oak Harbor High School.

For the owner of a $100,000 home in the district, property taxes would increase by about $11-$15 per month. The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station will pay for 38 cents of every dollar of the construction, though that number could fluctuate.

The new facility would be ready for the 2019-2020 school year.

The current middle school is 105-years-old and the local elementary school was built in 1956.

"There are a lot of reasons (for wanting a new facility). The first one is the safety and security of the students and the education. The middle school is 105 years old, it's three stories, and an evacuation (has) always been a worry, having people come down from the third floor, that’s an issue," said Superintendent Guy Parmigian. "The educational reason is huge. It’s about the quality of space - not the quantity, there is enough quantity - but there’s not the quality that we want for a 21st-century learning environment. There's the one-on-one and group work in the learning environment - you see other schools and they have small-group learning areas and individualized-learning areas. Newer schools have those features built in, we don’t. Our teachers do great things, they improvise, they’re creative, but what we have is not ideal. (The teachers) would have space that would facilitate those learning situations. It’s the quality of the learning environment that we want to improve with a new building."

With an older building, the costs of maintaining the facility can become a problem.

"Our maintenance staff has done a great job, (but) it's drained a lot of resources to maintain a 105-year-old building. I’ve had many old cars and you’re putting a starter in, you replace a filter, it's this or that, and at some point, it’s not worth pouring money into an old car when it makes more financial sense to buy a new car," said Parmigian. "Behind the walls, the pipes are crumbling; you can’t keep an even temperature in the building. With the infrastructure, it’s very difficult to run wires and outfit a building with good wireless access for walls that are several inches thick. I think we do a great job with what we have, but having something new is the best option and I think people need to think about the fact that we’re spending taxpayer dollars to maintain the building. Is that where you want your money to go?"

Jim Benadom, a member of Citizens for Historic Preservation, acknowledges the problems that come with maintaining such an old building, but believes it is still in good enough shape for further use.

"These buildings have been around, everybody knows that. I'm sure there's always room for improvement. There are probably things that could be done to make it more user-friendly and safe," Benadom said. "You might not get all of the things you want (with a smaller levy), but you might get some or most. I'd like a smaller levy for a fewer amount of years that could be used to renovate or remodel our existing building. I think both these buildings are basically structurally sound. I'm sure there's room for improvement and things that could be done; there are things that can be done and still have a very nice building.

"It seems like Oak Harbor’s school system is rated high. There's a banner on the front of the middle school that says, 'Academic Excellence.' R.C. Waters is ranked in the top 2 per cent in Ohio - good things are being done within these buildings. Evidently we have good teachers and kids who are willing to learn, and that’s where (the success) comes from."

For Benadom and others in the community, the middle school and the elementary school help maintain historical significance for the village.

"I think (the buildings) can be made better and still maintain Oak Harbor's history. I think the buildings are an asset to the community," he said. "It's part of our history. To me, (the middle school) is the heart of Oak Harbor. We’ve lost the armory, the town hall, and the hotel is now vacant. I don’t know what’s going to happen there. I think of the middle school, the elementary school and the lights downtown, it’s just part of OH’s history.

"My fear is the buildings will be torn down. I think these buildings could be used as an asset to the community (if a new facility is built). We could think about something to do with them. We have something to offer an outside business that could be used for office space, that could be used to bring in jobs. That's what we really need: jobs. It could be divided up (for other things). The bottom line is to save the buildings. The worst case scenario is to for them to be torn down. What will be done with the land? I don't really know if they have a plan for the land."

Parmigian talked about what could be in order for the two buildings should the levy pass.

"The discussion has been that we would first offer (the buildings) to the village. The other avenue for possibly saving the buildings is the board of education could possibly sell them to someone who would put them in good hands, if the board knew someone would make an investment in the buildings," said Parmigian. "It's a situation where we would be a good neighbor to the village, because at the end of the day, the board does not want the buildings dilapidated in the middle of town. The ultimate goal is to make it so we don’t have two eye sores in the village.”

Parmigian also addressed concerns some people have had regarding the vote being held in August as opposed in November as part of the general election.

"The facilities planning committee looked at the fact that interest rates were slowly rising and every quarter percent increase is equal to $3 million over the life of the bond issue (37 years)," Parmigian said. "Using our best educated judgment, having it on the ballot would get us a lower interest rate and save taxpayer dollars. The committee thought it should be its own issue. I know there’s been a great deal of discussion. It’s a big question for voters to decide and it deserves special consideration, which is why it’s on a special election ballot.”

 

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