The Switzerland County School Board continued its discussions on the future of the Old Vevay Grade School/High School at its meeting on Monday night.
Earlier in the year, the school board voted to have the old building taken down. After serving at the administration building for several years after Switzerland County High School was finished, the administrative offices were moved out of the building in 2009 due to health concerns; and the building has been used as storage since that time.
In voting to have the building leveled, the school board also opted to wait until after the annual meeting of the Vevay Alumni Association, which was held on August 26th, so that any alumni members could take photos of the school if that desired. It was also noted in the original motion that the school board was open to considering rescinding its decision if funds became available to restore the building.
Resident Lisa Fisher asked for permission and was granted approval to have a study done of the school, to see what costs would be involved in the restoration and if there were any possible uses for the building. At the school board’s August meeting, she reported that the firm she brought in to do the study estimated the cost to restore the school to be approximately $910,000. She also told the board that she believed that there were companies around that would take the building down at no or little cost in exchange for the opportunity to harvest the woodwork and other items in the building.
On Monday night, School Board President Katie Collier gave the floor to corporation attorney Matt Hocker, who explained to the board members some of the procedures that need to come next.
Hocker explained to the board that since the building was originally owned by the town of Vevay, when it was a Vevay school, there are Indiana codes that govern how the building can be taken down now.
“The old school building, the old administrative building – it was a school building before that, was one of the school buildings that the town of Vevay had built many years ago,” Hocker said. “As such, it was pulled into the Switzerland County School Corporation through the consolidation process that happened in the late 60s or early 70s. The law, about that consolidation process, actually talks about what you do if you want to tear down a building, demolish a building, that’s on something that you pulled in through the consolidation process.”
Hocker said that the law states that the school corporation as it exists now would have to offer the building back to the town or the township that originally built it.
“You have to see if they want it,” Hocker said. “If they do want it, they have 90 days to decide, if they do want it, the school’s then obligated to gift it to them in a quit-claim deed.”
Hocker told the school board that he had drafted a letter that the school board could use to allow Collier, as Board President, to officially offer it to the town of Vevay, which would start the 90 ‘clock’ running for the town council to make a decision. He noted that the town council didn’t have to wait the full 90 days, it could decide yes or no immediately or after any time period.
“If they accept it, they’ll get a quit-claim deed for the property, and will have to have some sort of survey done to decide exactly what they need to get to own that building,” Hocker said.
Hocker said that officially offering the town of Vevay the building back was the first step in the process; and that he was also looking into the second thing that the board will have to do before it can officially move forward with razing the building.
If the town accepts the building, then the entire process is finished, and it would be the town council’s responsibility to maintain the building and find a use for it moving forward; or ultimately be responsible for the demolition if that is what was decided.
If the town turns down taking control of the building, then the school board will move to the next phase, which is making application to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation and Archaeology division, because it is believed that the building is on the Indiana Register of Historic Places. Hocker said that he has spoken with Paul C. Diebold, Assistant Director of Preservation Services, at DNR, for direction in the school board’s next steps.
“He said that the building, he believes, is not on the Federal Register, but is on the State Registry, and it depends on the type of money that you would be using for its demolishment whether or not you would have to seek a certification of approval to demolish it through the review board up there,” Hocker said. “I told him the specifics of what was possible, that we could use money that was either from the boat through the foundation; through the general fund; through the building fund; through the Capital Projects; or it could be that it could pay for itself because we found out, at our last board meeting, that perhaps the scrap from the building itself could pay for its own demolishment. I wanted him to let us know whether or not we should pursue the certification of approval to demolish.”
Hocker said that the law only applies if the building is on the state register, which he said those he has spoken with believe that it is. If the school board does pursue getting a certification of approval to demolish the building, that hearing would come at the next meeting of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation and Archaeology division’s review board, which will be held on January 12th, 2018.
“They need an application for alteration or demolition 40 days before that meeting, which is on or about December 3rd, which because that’s a Sunday, would probably be December 1st,” Hocker said. “There’s an application that you get online, and we can fill that out. It’s a process that we can start concurrently with waiting to hear from the town board, if you so choose. I would propose that if you want to move forward, that you empower Katie to offer the building to the town of Vevay as step one.”
The next meeting of the Vevay Town Council is this Monday, September 25th.
Collier then asked for a motion to take the letter to the Vevay Town Council at its next meeting, and also to proceed with filing out the form that needs to go to the state, should the Vevay Town Council turn down the offer. That motion was made by Joe Bennett, and seconded by Josh Deck; and was passed by a vote of 6-1, with board members Collier, Bennett, Deck, Tye Sullivan, Greg Bosaw, and Amy Combs voting in favor; while Jill Cord voted against the motion.
Hocker noted that if no state or public funds will be used for the demolition – as in the possibility of the demolition paying for itself – then it is possible that the matter will not have to go through the certification process, but that he was leaving those decisions to come from the state, so that every entity is in agreement.