Whether or not a non-profit organization will donate as much as $50,000 for the preservation of a 101-year-old former school building in the Village of Millbury or instead donate the money for a park may not be known for weeks.
Karen Prymicz, who chairs the 1909 Committee, said she’s scheduling a meeting of committee members to discuss a letter from the current owner of the Millbury School building, asking her to follow through on a “pledge” to donate the funds for the building’s preservation.
|Jerry O'Reilly in front of the
historic Millbury school. (Press
photo by Ken Grosjean)
Prymicz last week confirmed she received the letter, written by Walbridge attorney Douglas Perras on behalf of Jerry O’Reilly, who purchased the building and property at a public auction in April, 2008.
She declined to comment on the matter, however, until after the committee had met, which she said would be in “the next several weeks.”
The Wood County Auditor’s website lists a sale price of $45,100.
At issue is a statement Prymicz allegedly made at the auction to O’Reilly about the funds and a phone conversation between the two this past August in which O’Reilly claims she said the committee had decided instead to donate the funds to the village park.
The letter says Prymicz introduced herself to O’Reilly at the auction as the chairman of the 1909 Committee and said: “We have $50,000 to give to you to help restore the building.”
“On August, 13, 2010, sixteen months since the pledge was made and after three prior phone calls to you during that period, you have now advised Mr. O’Reilly in a phone call that the Committee had changed its mind and would donate the funds to the park instead,” the letter says.
O’Reilly last week said he was still considering his original proposal to renovate the building but noted the lack of funding from the committee could be a deal breaker. He acknowledged he’s received only informal estimates from contractors for the cost of restoring the building and said it could be more than $250,000.
Í want to keep the old building,” he said. “But it would be cheaper to knock it down and build something new.”
If it were restored, O’Reilly said he may establish a non-profit organization which would oversee the older building and a newer wing where he plans to operate a local history and radio/television museum. Amateur radio classes for scout groups would be offered.
He opened a CB radio/electronics store in the former kitchen area of the newer section of the school after purchasing the property.
His letter claims he’s talked to between 75 and 100 residents, many of whom contributed to the committee assuming their donations would be used for renovating the building that was constructed in 1909 and housed four classrooms.
“All of these persons expressed surprise and disappointment that that Committee has now arbitrarily chosen to disregard the very purpose for which it was founded and for which it had solicited funds all these years,” the letter says.
According to the committee’s articles of incorporation on file with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, the committee was officially formed Dec. 18, 1996.
“The 1909 Committee is a grass-roots community organization from the Lake Township area, formed for the purpose of preserving the Millbury School Building, constructed in 1909,” the incorporation document says.
An amendment filed in 1997 to the incorporation article appears to give the committee some leeway in distributing its assets when the organization is dissolved. It says: “Upon the dissolution of the organization, assets shall be distributed for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code…or shall be distributed to the federal government, or to a state or local government, for a public purpose...”
The 1909 Committee is on a list compiled by the IRS in June of tax-exempt organizations at risk of having their exemptions revoked for not filing returns with the agency three consecutive years.
The IRS is offering a one-time relief program for organizations that have return due dates between May 17 and Oct. 15, 2010.
Sitting next to the counter at O’Reilly’s store, Earl Wells, who lives across the street from the former school, said he understands the owner’s feelings.
“He’s willing to put his own money into preserving the building,” he said. “But if he tears it down I don’t blame him.”
The letter says Prymicz made the statement in the presence of “numerous persons,” including the Lake School District treasurer and Lake Township Police Chief. Both men last week said they didn’t recall hearing Prymicz talk with O’Reilly.