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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2011

School board OKs Libbey transfer to city

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS AND IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

The Toledo Board of Education Tuesday night approved a development agreement with the city of Toledo regarding a portion of the Libbey High School campus in South Toledo.

The plan, if approved by Toledo City Council on Tuesday, would transfer much of the campus from the school district to the city. The school district would agree to spend up to $1 million for a heating-and- cooling system and the construction of a wall separating the main school building from the rest of the property. The city would then repay the district that money over three years.

According to the agreement, the city would purchase part of the shuttered Libbey High School -- the school's fieldhouse, skill center, and football stadium, but not the 80-year-old main school on Western Avenue. Because TPS intends to raze that part of the campus, the city would have to pay about $1 million for a new heating-and-cooling system in what would remain.

Steve Herwat, the city's deputy mayor of operations, who attended the board meeting, said earlier Tuesday that the administration wants to preserve a portion of the campus for a neighborhood community recreation facility that could be used year-round. The Bell administration has been negotiating for months with the school district over the future of Libbey, which Toledo Public Schools closed at the end of the 2009-2010 school year after a levy failed.

"We have no intent or desire to acquire the main Libbey High School," Mr. Herwat told council Tuesday.

Board member Larry Sykes expressed concern about advancing the city the money, referring to the city as "broke."

"If this fails, where does that leave us as a district?" Mr. Sykes asked.

Mr. Herwat pointed to the city's balanced budget, saying the city may either budget payments over three years, or float a short-term note to pay for the improvements up-front. He told the board that Mayor Mike Bell will not sign the agreement until he is given assurance by his financial department that the city can make the payments.

"Our legal counsel has assured me that they will write a contract that will be so solid that the city will have to pay, short of someone putting their house up for collateral," school board president Bob Vasquez said.

The TPS board voted 4-0 in favor of the agreement, with several lauding the collaboration between the school district and city. Board member Jack Ford was absent.

Councilman Rob Ludeman Tuesday asked why Toledo Public Schools doesn't undertake the responsibility for preserving the fieldhouse, skill center, and football stadium.

"I don't know why we as a city council have to take control," Mr. Ludeman said. "Let's let them do their job."

He also questioned if Toledo Public Schools was allowing its new school buildings to be used for community use.

Councilman George Sarantou also questioned the plan to spend $1 million from the city's capital improvement budget.

"I eagerly anticipate hearing more on this, because last time I checked our streets are a mess and we need more police officers," Mr. Sarantou said.



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