Thursday, October 10, 2002

Old school headed to park site

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. — Butler County MetroParks officials said Wednesday they plan to use park board funds, generated from taxes and park fees, to pay about $280,000 to move the 115-year-old schoolhouse at Cox and Tylersville roads to their property at Voice of America.

The park district originally had planned to spend about that much anyway for a boathouse beside a 30-acre recreational lake it plans to build soon, MetroParks President Greg Amend said. The schoolhouse will be converted into the boathouse, which will serve as an activity center at Cox and Hamilton-Mason roads, he said.

However, unless the schoolhouse can be moved within a week, it will meet the wrecking ball, because county officials can't further delay the Cox Road construction project. MetroParks should know in a few days how soon contractors could relocate it.

The $4.3 million road project already has cost about a half million dollars more than it should have because of delays associated with the schoolhouse, which now sits where the widened road will be, county and township leaders say.

“The road project is going to be completed,” Commissioner Courtney Combs pledged Wednesday. “Taxpayers have a right to be upset about delays and what's happened in this project. It is a situation that should have been avoided. There were too many people working on the project and not enough communication going back and forth and the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing and the outcome of that was a loss of money.”

Demolition began Monday, and then was halted Tuesday on the old No. 7 schoolhouse after MetroParks abruptly announced it would take it. Commissioner Mike Fox and Mr. Amend worked out the arrangement Monday and the park board unanimously approved it Tuesday.

The brick schoolhouse was going to go to West Chester Township's land on the VOA and be renovated into a nature center. But that fell apart late this summer when county officials said they couldn't afford to move the schoolhouse and pave a road into the VOA off Cox because of cost overruns on the project. They also want to save money for studies on the proposed eastward interchange off the Michael A. Fox Highway at Interstate 75 in Liberty Township, according to Mr. Fox, for whom the highway is named.

West Chester trustees said they preferred the road paving instead of the schoolhouse. Demolition began Monday at Administrator Dave Gully's insistence so the decision couldn't be reversed. The township already is renovating a historic schoolhouse on Station Road and will pay $2.4 million to move and restore a barn from Fairfield to Beckett Park.

Some of the schoolhouse's windows were smashed, the back door was ripped off, holes were punched in the walls and the banister and stairway were yanked out. But Mr. Amend said Wednesday the damage can be repaired.

Meanwhile, the county will spend about $200,000 within the next month to pave the road into the VOA for West Chester, Mr. Combs said.

Jim Dudley, who sold the corner parcel containing the schoolhouse to the county earlier this year, said he is so frustrated over the ordeal he doesn't care anymore what happens to the schoolhouse.

“All those years my family saved that schoolhouse and now this,” he said. “They can tear the thing down.”


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