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Twinsburg officials: What's best for Old School is asbestos removal

Residents interested in preserving the structure voice concerns about demolishing the building

By April Helms | Reporter Published: December 14, 2016 12:00 AM
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TWINSBURG -- The city will again apply for a Brownfield Cleanup Grant to help allay the $250,000 cost of removing asbestos from the Old School property on Darrow Road.

City Council heard details on the grant proposal information during a Dec. 6 work session. The city applied for a Brownfield grant last year and was denied any of the requested $200,000. Council unanimously approved applying for the grant at its Nov. 8 meeting.

"We feel we have strengthened our application in a few areas," said Twinsburg Planning and Development Director Larry Finch.

Ultimately, Finch said completely removing the asbestos from the 40,000-square-foot building is the most cost-effective and sound solution in the long run -- whether the city-owned building is ultimately razed or sold.

"(Full removal) is a situation where you don't have to come back to the area if you want to redevelop it again," Finch said.

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Finch said that "there is a substantial amount of asbestos" in the building.

"It's in the glaze of the windows," he said. "It's in the floor tiles. It's in the roofing. It's in the caulking and it's in the insulation."

Other options include doing nothing, and only removing the asbestos that is not contained, Finch said.

Cost for the cleanup is estimated at $250,000; the grant could again provide up to $200,000. The city would then need to come up with 20 percent in matching funds, Finch said. The grants are offered once a year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to communities to clean up properties so they can be re-purposed.

The deadline for the grant application is Dec. 20.

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City officials have estimated the cost to repair and re-purpose the building at between $4 million and $8 million, and have said that if the building cannot be sold after the asbestos is removed, it should be razed.

And not all residents are on board with either the grant application or the prospect of razing the structure. Several spoke at the work session, voicing concerns that the grant would be used to remove asbestos before the building's demolition.

"The city is set on tearing down the building and the grant will make it easier," said Twinsburg resident Michael Turle. "I'm afraid the city will stick to demolishing. People did not want the roundabout, and you did it anyway. We didn't want the rezoning. You put it on the ballot and we voted it down. You put it on the ballot again and it was voted down even worse than the first time."

Turle said the city should focus on preserving and restoring its historical structures. He added that he and other residents were willing to work with the city "to create a nice package" for potential reuse of the building. The Old School has never been officially dedicated as a protected historic structure.

Reminderville resident John Hudak said the building has been neglected by the city, and that the city has allowed the facility to fall in to disrepair precisely so that it can be demolished.

"It should be listed (for sale) now," he said. "It should have been listed four years ago. Ninety percent of the asbestos doesn't need removed. Many of the windows have been replaced already. Kent State did a lot of repair work."

The Old School was constructed in 1921 and sits on the site of the city's first centralized school. The building was expanded in 1952 and finally closed as a public school building in 1992.

Before Daimler Chrysler (in conjunction with Kent State University) opened the United Auto Workers Training Center in 1995, some minor fixes were made to the facility. The building also served as Kent State University's Geauga Campus until 2012. The structure has remained unoccupied since.

Twinsburg resident Regis Brown said Dec. 6 that "abandoned structures are a nuisance and dangerous," and that they invite vandalism, higher crime and arson.

"Our city has been discussing the fate of the Old School for 20 years," Brown said. "There is no guarantee we will get the grant. Leaving this building empty another day should not be tolerated. It's a public nuisance. It should be demolished for the benefit and safety of nearby businesses."

Mayor Ted Yates has said the city will maintain the exterior of the building -- but "a significant amount of money" will not be invested in the facility.

"We've taken down broken blinds, tried to make front door appear as good as possible," Yates said. "But the city has no intention of putting a significant amount of money into this. We will maintain the exterior of the facility with what is needed."

Twinsburg resident Laurie Facsina questioned whether the city could even receive a grant if the ultimate fate of the building was demolition.

"If you are looking to apply for grants just for demolition, you are not reading it properly," she said.

Facsina also voiced concerns about the lack of resident input, particularly from the Twinsburg Old School Committee.

"I don't think you can just dismiss the Twinsburg Old School Committee," she said. "They are a stakeholder. If the city had not ignored its responsibility, it would not be a blight."

Finch said that "we are totally in compliance with the EPA application process," and that this was the early stage of the grant process.

Council president Gary Sorace said there were "no definitive plans" for the Old School building.

Former Council president Sam Scaffide agreed.

"There has been talk, but nothing definite," Scaffide said of the structure.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

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Chewie Dec 17, 2016 4:24 PM

Jace - I appreciate bold... it's much better than beating around the bush. A couple of questions, if I may be so bold, so that you're not just talking to yourself here.

1) I'm not an expert in aesbestos removal. I imagine the folks at the EPA are. If what you say is true then the grant will be denied and the folks in City Hall will be reprimanded accordingly. I doubt very highly that they would "lie" to receive these federal funds, but time will tell. It seems premature to suggest it here.

2.) $4 Million to $8 Million is an outrageous claim for "restoration". This came from only one source that was paid, by the City to make this claim.

Are you suggesting that the City of Twinsburg paid someone to make false claims? This seems a tad bit agressive, and borderlinelibelous if you don't have proof.

"It looked fabulous the day that Kent State moved out in 2012 and the only "damage" to the building since then has been by City Employees."

That's your opinion, one that you're welcome to. Personally I think the building has looked like a prison (from the outside, I've never been in). Again, I'd urge you not to make libelous statements suggesting that City employees are doing damage to a building.

"Would you hire anyone that told you that it would take $40,000 to $80,000 to upgrade your home?"

If those $40 - 80k worth of upgrades turned your home a profit of say $100 to $120 then absolutlely.

"$4 Million to $8 Million is an outrageous range."

For a $16 million building? (your number) That seems pretty appropriate actually.

"Furthermore, the City should be receiving at least three (3) independent bids for any "specific" upgrade (whether it is necessary or not)."

Agreed completely.

As for the plans the city has for the building... has there been alternativ plans presented? If not it's tough to complain about about what the city plans to do with an unused buidling.

There is a huge difference between having an emotional attachment to a building and it being "historically significant".

To be fair I have no emotional attachment to this. That said to me it's nothing but an ugly building taking up space in the middle of our town.

Just cause it's old doesn't make it worth saving. That said, if there's a plan to do something with it... do it. Cluster homes aren't the answer either in my opinion as we have plenty in the Burg. I'd like to see it put to good use for something that will A) give us Twinsburg folks some place to frequent and B) give folks from outside of Twinsburg a reason to visit our fair city.

To this point I've not see a plan that would do that and worse yet it's sitting unused. Now that I think about it, I supposed if my ONLY two choices were between cluster home and a busted building, I would choose cluster homes.

I have a feeling though that with the smart folks we have involved we can come up with something better. I'm just not sure what's taking so long.

My fear is that if "the city" isn't presented with an actual viable plan they will do whatever they see fit (as they should). In a perfect world we'd be presented with several alternatives and be given a chance to weigh in via a vote.

jace Dec 17, 2016 11:51 AM

I really hate to be this blunt, but the City only purported lies at the meeting.

1.) There is not one single ounce of asbestos that "NEEDS" to be removed to make the Old School sellable or occupiable! This has been confirmed with the EPA. All substances are either contained or external to the facility. Fact is that every building in the City built before 1977 contains asbestos, including your homes and the schools that your children attend. The City is using this, a completely false "scare tactic", to convince the residents that this healthy and extremely valuable Historic Facility should be torn down. This lie is illegal especially when it is used to receive Federal Funds.

2.) $4 Million to $8 Million is an outrageous claim for "restoration". This came from only one source that was paid, by the City to make this claim. Not only was the building safely occupied by Kent State, the UAW and Chrysler, but those entities (especially Kent State) performed significant upgrades to the facility. It looked fabulous the day that Kent State moved out in 2012 and the only "damage" to the building since then has been by City Employees. Besides... Would you hire anyone that told you that it would take $40,000 to $80,000 to upgrade your home? $4 Million to $8 Million is an outrageous range. Furthermore, the City should be receiving at least three (3) independent bids for any "specific" upgrade (whether it is necessary or not).

3.) The Front Door was not made to "appear as good as possible". They put plywood over a broken window when replacing the window would have been easy, inexpensive and "as good as possible". Their intent is to disgrace and disrespect this Historic Building so they can justify demolition.

4.) The City "DOES HAVE PLANS FOR THIS PROPERTY". These plans have been well documented by the City showing "Cluster Homes", other buildings, streets and Parking Areas on this property and adjacent properties. These plans have been articulated in numerous meetings going as far back as 2012. These plans only serve "Special Interests" and developers.

The City keeps changing their claims of the size of the building. On one or more occasion they claim that it is 40,000 sq. ft. on other occasions they claim that it is 54,000 sq. ft. The latter being the most accurate.

The building at 54,000 sq. ft. would cost $16.2 Million to replace in 2016 dollars. This makes the building a $16.2 Million Tax Payer Asset. Demolition of the building would be an "insult" to Twinsburg Taxpayers and residents.

Furthermore, the City’s plans to redevelop this area with cluster homes, other buildings, parking, streets and other impervious (nonporous) materials will Environmentally Impact the Tinkers Creek Flood Plain which will lead to flooding at Tinkers Lane, Glenwood and many other properties downstream.

The Twinsburg Old School was sold (gifted) to the City for $1 with a Deed Restriction for it to remain as "Public Use". Legally, this building and property should be maintained and used for Public functions. The Old School Committee has identified numerous purposes for this Historic building including: Plays (in the fabulous Victorian Auditorium), movies, concerts, social areas for our youth, shops, business offices, museums for Twins Day, Veterans, Police, Fire and other Twinsburg Residents as well as snack shops and many other purposes. These types of Public use have been extremely effective when repurposing Historic Schools in many communities both in Ohio as well as Nationwide.

There are many, many opportunities to obtain Federal and State Grants for repurposing this Historic Building.