Libbey High School still stands, a brief reprieve from final destruction received not from a change of heart but because of project delays.
Demolition was to begin Wednesday, but major work on tearing down the former high school on Western Avenue now won’t start until mid-January, Toledo Public School officials said.
Coordination of utility cutoffs and delays in obtaining permits from the city contributed to the delay at Libbey and other TPS buildings, although who’s at fault depends, in part, on who’s talking.
James Gant, the district’s business manager, said 27 buildings — including Libbey — are in some state of demolition, ranging from under assault of wrecking balls or in the cleanup and ground-leveling stage.
Timelines for several of those projects have been pushed back, leaving empty eyesores in neighborhoods.
“The building permit process has been somewhat of a struggle with the city and us,” Mr. Gant said.
Chris Zervos, director of the department of inspection, said that’s not the city’s fault. Much of the delay, he said, is because TPS officials and the district’s demolition contractors “do not understand the demolition process, although we have explained it to them on numerous [occasions].”
In some cases, he said, the district has struggled to identify purchase orders or funding sources for permits and utility disconnection. In others, basic information, such as the cubic footage of the building to be razed, were not included in applications for permits.
“It has not been our problem,” Mr. Zervos said. “They simply refuse to accept responsibility [that] as the applicant, they need to provide us the documentation for what it is they are doing. They have basically dumped things on us without providing the documentation.”
Mr. Zervos said that he did not know the specifics surrounding Libbey’s permit, but said delays probably were of a similar nature to other recent district demolitions.
He said that the demolition process can be convoluted and that the coordination of utility termination should not be done in haste because a haphazard job could jeopardize city infrastructure and affect neighbors.
And the district is not in the midst of a typical building or demolition project. TPS finds itself at the tail end of its Building for Success plan, a decade-long program that involved more than $600 million of renovations, rebuilding, and demolitions of buildings, largely using state funds — thus the 27 buildings on the demolition list.
Libbey is the most notable building on that list. TPS closed Libbey in 2010 after years of declining enrollment. The district estimated that the empty building costs about $160,000 a year for utilities and maintenance. Attempts to find a buyer for the school were unsuccessful — a last-resort public auction in August turned up no bidders.
The school, which opened in 1923, was named for Libbey Glass founder and philanthropist Edward Drummond Libbey. It was designed by Edwin M. Gee, supervising architect for city schools at the time.
The Building for Success program is a collaboration among the district, state officials, and local contractors, adding another level of bureaucracy that could lead to delays if communication breaks down.
Most of the coordination for the building project comes from the district’s contracted construction management team, a partnership of the Lathrop Co., Barton Marlow, and R. Gant LLC, said Mr. Gant, who has no relation to the ownership of R. Gant. Requests for comment from Lathrop/Gant/Barton Marlow on Tuesday elicited no response.
Both Mr. Zervos and Mr. Gant said they believed kinks in the process have now been —at least somewhat — smoothed.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086.