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Published: Thursday, 8/11/2011

Lack of bids on Libbey could seal school's fate

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Keith Wilkowski, right, conducts the auction at Libbey High School. Contents of the school's field house and skills center were sold during the auction Wednesday. Libbey High School opened in 1923 and was closed in 2010. Demolition is scheduled to begin in December. Keith Wilkowski, right, conducts the auction at Libbey High School. Contents of the school's field house and skills center were sold during the auction Wednesday. Libbey High School opened in 1923 and was closed in 2010. Demolition is scheduled to begin in December.
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In the end, there was no savior for Libbey High School.

There was no wealthy benefactor, no university looking to expand, no developer to renovate the building.

"Is there a bid for the minimum price of $395,000?" Toledo Public Schools' lawyer Keith Wilkowski called out in front of the shuttered school.

No reply.

Nobody bid on Libbey Wednesday during a public auction, likely the last chance to save the school from demolition. Asbestos abatement begins Thursday and demolition is to start in December.

Libbey supporters showed up for support, hanging signs and unfurling banners. Some curious onlookers stoked their curiosity and left. TV crews trained their cameras, but nobody put down the minimum $395,000 for the more than 300,000-square-foot structure on Western Avenue in South Toledo. Jim Gant, TPS business manager, was not shocked.

"I'm not, unfortunately," Mr. Gant said. "I hoped for the best, but I'm not surprised."

The district closed Libbey in 2010 after years of declining enrollment. It costs about $160,000 a year for utilities and maintenance even while empty, according to district estimates, at a time when TPS is cutting teachers and salaries.

If TPS does not begin demolition by the end of the year, the district may lose about $1.5 million in funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for the work.

The Board of Education thought it had an answer in April, when it approved a development agreement with the city to take over the fieldhouse and skill center. But the city eventually passed because of the projected cost of renovations.

The auction was a last resort.

Libbey boosters said they won't give up, but must regroup to decide what's next. They criticized school officials for what they called a rushed process.

"We question their sincerity in all of this," said Larry Baccus, president of the high school's alumni association. "We feel the public has been misled."

Board member Brenda Hill said she had held out hope a buyer would step forward. No one did, and now it's time to move on.

"The time has come," Ms. Hill said. "There's no more money. It's no one's fault."

The Libbey campus was alive with action Wednesday as the school's fieldhouse and skills' center contents were sold. To the highest bidder went an old mini bus, numerous tables and chairs, and for $25,000 the bleachers that had been along the football field and track.

The school, which opened in 1923, was named for Libbey Glass founder and philanthropist Edward Drummond Libbey. It was designed by Edwin M. Gee, the supervising architect for city schools at the time.

The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board nominated the building last month for the National Register of Historic Places.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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