Trustees eye former school building
Is the Graytown Elementary School building, which was closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year, a suitable asset for Benton Township to acquire?
Township trustees have been weighing the pros and cons of purchasing the building that is nearly 75 years old and held a public meeting earlier this month, offering residents an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
The building is located across the street from the township administrative office and other township facilities on N. Graytown Road and Gary Gregg, who chairs the board of trustees, last week said the former school has some good potential for the township.
The township’s own office and maintenance building lack hot running water, he said, and there is only room for about 12 persons to attend a trustees’ meeting in the office.
There has been no shortage of ideas for the school building, according to Gregg.
“Part of the building could be turned into a community room that we would rent out,” he said. “Depending on how things go we could possibly lease out part of the building as offices or something like that. We’ve been working with many people, including the (Ottawa County) Improvement Corporation, and everyone has ideas. Some people are for it and some are against it. We’re still trying to get questions answered from the meeting.”
According to records in the Ottawa County Auditor’s office, the building and grounds have an appraised value of $974,800 - $875,920 for the building and $98,880 for the land.
The Benton-Carroll-Salem school board closed the building as part of a cost-cutting plan that included consolidating the district into fewer elementary buildings.
“It’s a lot more building than we need but I think we could make it work. We wanted to get it out there in front of the public,” Gregg said, referring to the public meeting.
Judy Roberts, a resident who attended the meeting, said in a phone interview she was encouraging residents to contact the trustees with their concerns about the possible purchase of the building.
She said she was skeptical of the building’s development potential in the current economy.
According to minutes of the school board’s Nov. 20 meeting, the board met in executive session to discuss the possible sale of property but took no action.
The board is scheduled to meet for its 2013 organizational meeting and regular monthly meeting on Jan. 14.
Gregg said school board members have indicated to him the process for putting the building up for auction will likely be on the agenda for that meeting.
An email message left with the school board for comment was not returned.
The school board voted in December 2011 to close Carroll and Graytown elementary schools, Rocky Ridge Elementary School was closed earlier.