By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — —
The demolition of the former Horace Mann school leads city officials to discuss how to prevent being responsible for disposal of old buildings in the future.
"This school was originally District 80 property and we wound up with it for $1," City Councilman David Wood said Tuesday. "Depending on the bid process, we will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to take it down. ... We need to be working toward communication and solutions so this type of problem doesn't reoccur."
The council approved seeking bids for the demolition of the building on Tuesday, which will include abatement of friable asbestos and black mold. The school was deeded to the city in 2002 after the consolidation of District 80 schools into the Primary Center, J.L. Buford Intermediate Center and Casey Middle School.
The facility, after it was deeded to the city, was used as a community center, and was host to several fundraisers as well as a meeting place for the Heartland Young Marines. It has also been used as a storage facility for city property.
In 2009, the city had to close the facility to the public due to finding black mold. An environmental report released last year indicated the building not only has black mold, but friable asbestos, which is more easily released into the air and requires specific abatement procedures during demolition.
Wood said he is concerned the city may be in a similar situation in the future when Mt. Vernon Township High School vacates its existing campus and moves to a new school building to be built on Wells Bypass.
"I know the school districts are another taxing body, but all the money comes from our citizens who are taxpayers," Wood said. "We need to be sure we don't have to spend this kind of money again to tear down a building."
City Manager Ron Neibert said he is working with the city's legal counsel to prepare a recommendation for the council on the issue.
"We want to address how school districts and other taxing bodies get rid of the buildings so it doesn't become a burden on our taxpayers," Neibert said. "There are a couple avenues we can pursue, but I want to evaluate those plans with our legal counsel."
Neibert added he expects to have a recommendation prepared for the council in March.
Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said city officials and administrators from District 80 completed a walk-through of the Horace Mann building last week, and the district will be taking some of the architectural elements such as the cornerstone plaque from the building which have historical value. Those items will be removed prior to complete demolition.
"Once it's torn down, we will consider suggests for the property," Chesley said. Councilman Ron Lash added he believes there should be community input on the use of the property.
"People in that area are sentimental about the school and about the property," Lash said. "It's been a part of the community for many years. They should be able to have a say in what we do with it, and with that, be able to claim or reclaim ownership of it."