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Boards set date for community input on Newbury facilities

The date is set for residents to have their voices heard on the fate of the Newbury Local School facilities, and township trustees and county commissioners are invited.

In separate board meetings Monday night, West Geauga and Newbury boards of education announced that May 20 is the tentative date for the community meeting, of which planning has been in the works since the boards’ joint meeting in February.

Maggie Zock, president of the Newbury Board of Education, said the meeting will start at either 6 or 7 p.m. through Zoom, depending on the schedule for the Newbury Township Trustees meeting. She said if the meetings fall on the same day, she wants to make sure Newbury residents are able to attend both meetings.

She said she and fellow board member David Lair have also reached out to the township trustees about participating in the community meeting and breakout sessions that would follow.

Board President Bill Beers of the West Geauga Board of Education explained that he and board member Kathy Leavenworth, also of West Geauga, have been working closely with Mrs. Zock and Mr. Lair to form this meeting. After discussions with consultant Dione DeMitro of Burges and Burges, who will act as the meeting facilitator, the team have pulled together a live presentation to share with the West Geauga and Newbury communities.

Dr. Beers said the presentation will be followed by breakout sessions for an opportunity for attendees to provide their input for potential uses – or demolition – of the Newbury facilities.

“One of the things that I think we’ve all agreed upon is that we need to make this a positive impact on the school district, and that includes Newbury Township as well as our students,” Dr. Beers said. “It needs to be done properly so that the financial stability of our district continues. It needs to be done in a way that the students in our larger school district have a benefit to them as well.”

He said the presentation will include a “high level analysis” of the costs associated with the building. Both he and Mrs. Zock presented this analysis to their respective boards Monday night.

Using square footage, age and asbestos abatement data, the analysis assessed the total value of the 39 acres of facilities and property at an estimate of $750,000 with a cost to demolish at more than $1 million.

Demolition costs would include an estimated $800,000 for the main building and bus garage, $186,000 for the middle school and auditorium building, between $10,000 and $15,000 in well closures and between $40,000 and $60,000 for engineering.

Dr. Beers and Mrs. Zock both noted that there are no estimates yet for demolishing the stadium and determining if there are underground tanks associated with the bus garage.

Mrs. Zock said the numbers are not meant to come to any conclusion, rather they are there to give the boards and the public a better idea of what they are dealing with when determining what to do with the property.

“The point here is to give you some idea of the range of costs that we’re looking at,” Dr. Beers said. “And as we get ideas from the community on other options, we’ll be able to put together what those costs are as well.”

The boards also looked at annual maintenance costs associated with “mothballing” the facilities in the analysis.

If the West Geauga district decides to keep the buildings on standby, personnel for standard building maintenance is roughly estimated to cost about $60,000, utilities at about $90,000, supplies and repairs at about $50,000 and insurance, through Love Insurance, at $22,790 for a total estimated cost of more than $222,000 annually.

Unknown expenses and potential major repairs have yet to be determined, the board presidents explained.

“There would also be additional costs to make [the buildings] functional and to maintain them, which are not included in these,” Dr. Beers said.

Both added that the situation is not black and white when determining between demolition and uses for the buildings, noting that there could be a number of scenarios for costs not yet determined depending on community input, including demolishing only some buildings and keeping others.

On Tuesday, Dr. Beers, Mrs. Zock and Mr. Lair also presented the properties to the Geauga County Commissioners.

Dr. Beers and Mrs. Zock explained that just as they have reached out to Newbury Township to engage in the breakout sessions and to ask if they have any potential uses for the buildings, they are extending the same offer to the commissioners.

“We’re trying to make a positive change, not only for our new [school] district, but for Newbury Township and Geauga County,” Mrs. Zock said.

Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri said use of the buildings would be something worth taking a look at, noting that the county is in discussions of determining the relocation of either Job and Family Services or the Department on Aging, especially since the location is centrally located in Geauga.

Commissioner Timothy Lennon, however, noted that the county is currently working to get out of situations where departments are located in older buildings.

Mr. Lair explained that the main Newbury Jr./ Sr. High School was originally built in 1928 and has since received several additions. He said the middle school with the auditorium was built in 1972.

Mr. Lennon said that while the school buildings could be retrofitted, they are still older buildings that would need to be maintained. He added, however, that with the current economy due to COVID-19, it could be something the county may need to consider.

See the story on Chagrin Valley Today here >>

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