By Joyell Nevins
Weekly Record Herald Editor
Story courtesy of the Weekly Record Herald and printed in their April 15, 2011 edition
WEST MILTON – While there are still questions of what to do with the bricks and pillars, one thing is almost certain – the old Milton-Union High School building will be coming down.
“Well I didn’t [believe this was the best option], but now you’ve convinced me,” said class of 1952 Milton-Union alum and parent Diane Huston, “I never dreamed this day would come, but I see it’s not possible [to keep the building up].”
Huston was convinced by a presentation of two different studies that the district undertook. The studies were to explore the options after Milton-Union’s efforts to find a buyer turned to naught.
“We don’t ever want to keep this information to ourselves – we want to share,” said Superintendent Ginny Rammel, as she laid out the events of the past six months.
First, Rammel discussed the district’s attempts to find a business to inhabit the building. Milton-Union approached Kettering Medical, Premier Health, educational institutions like Edison and Kaplan, the historical society, Crown Control, two real estate firms, and even a fitness center.
Originally, Kettering showed interest, but once the economy tanked, the answer from them and everyone else was always no.
“Our attempts were ultimately unsuccessful,” said Rammel.
Reasons included the uncertain economy, the cost to renovate, the size of the building, the asbestos problem, and the lack of utilities like air conditioning and internet.
So the next options became: do a partial demolition and keep the gym; maintain the building as is; or demolish the building and keep the land.
The partial demolition study was done by Heapy Engineers and Resource International Construction Management Team. The idea was to demolish the ’51 wing, but keep the gym and adjoining hallway and classrooms.
This turned out to be quite expensive due to code and classification issues. Once the building became a non-education site, a different set of building code standards would have to be implemented. These include asbestos abatement, handicap accessibility, more bathrooms, and a new sprinkler system.
The total cost would be $2.8 million just to bring the building up to standards. It would then cost the district approximately $204,000 annually to maintain it.
“The community would be facing a levy to save that portion of the building,” said Heapy representative Mike Huff.
Keeping it operational
The next study was completed by real estate appraiser Bruce Schenck, on the ‘marketability and feasibility’ of keeping the building as is.
Schenck and his team investigated turning the site into a place for residential housing, a place for condos and office space, or just an empty historical building.
The West Milton Planning Board already rejected a property management’s team request to take the elementary/middle building and turn it into office and apartment space. According to Rammel and Schenck, the board was mainly concerned about it being a multi-use facility, increasing traffic , or turning into low-income housing.
Even if the Milton-Union site was brought back to the board as single family homes, that still was not a feasible option. There have been only twelve housing permits in the town since 2006. Schenck pointed out the housing development Stone Meadows, which has massive land ready to be built upon, yet has been sitting virtually unused for ten years.
Schenck determined that the school land would be valued at approximately $11,500 an acre. After the price of demolition, the cost would be a negative $420,000, $90,000 of which would be coming out of Milton-Union’s pocket.
Another problematic factor, according to Schenck, is that West Milton’s population has been declining over the last decade. The number of new business upstarts has also declined.
If the building was kept and remodeled into condos and office space (70 condos, five offices), Schenck determined it would take about 14 years for everything to be sold and used, and place the district $1.877 million in the hole in the process.
Just maintaining the building was also expensive: Schenck said about $3.50 per square foot to keep it up. At 96,000 square feet, Milton-Union would be looking at $307,000 annually.
So, the board and district staff have concluded the only reasonable option is to demolish both buildings completely. The demolition has already been paid for by tobacco money and the earned income tax levy.
“Unless someone comes by with a good use, the only option that makes sense is to tear it down,” said board member Larry Dehus.
The audience was assured that there will continue to be a football program and football field, with updated concession stands, locker rooms and restrooms. What is not determined yet is if the field will be at Lowry or kept where it is now.
The current football field will be used for at least two more seasons, as the earliest the high school building will be torn down is in the late fall of 2012.
District staff and alums are discussing ways to keep Milton-Union history alive, whether moving the pillars from the high school building out to Lowry, or selling memento bricks from the to-be-demolished building.
There are also plans to make this upcoming school year a continual anniversary of last moments.
“It will be a year’s celebration of remembering the past and celebrating the future,” said former principal and Hall of Honor coordinator Allen Smith.
Rammel and Treasurer Chuck Klein have made both of themselves available for coffees or presentations with any size group to discuss the future of the district.
Tours of the new building are also available in small groups. Contact the central office at 884-7910 to set any of these gatherings up.
The power point presentation from the community meeting is available on the website, www.milton-union.k21.oh.us, under the “high school options” link.