XENIA — The group trying to turn the former Simon Kenton Elementary School building into a source for life-enriching services bought itself more time Thursday.
Xenia City Council and the city agreed to extend a memo of understanding with Bridges of Hope, a faith-based, non-profit corporation while the group gathers information to prove its viability to the city. Bridges of Hope will have continued access and limited use of the building. And although a moratorium on the demolition of the building expired Sept. 30, the city has made no move in that direction.
A final proposal presented to council by Xenia Grace Chapel Pastor Dan Jordan left some council members with more questions, the answers of which will help the city decide the future of the project, at least where the city-owned Simon Kenton building is concerned. The city and Bridges of Hope officials will likely schedule at least one council work session to discuss specifics of the proposal.
“There’s a lot of unknowns here,” Councilman Dale Louderback said.
What BOH hopes to do is facilitate organizations serving community needs, including those of the homeless, impoverished and drug addicted. It would create a one-stop-shop where all the services would be available at the Simon Kenton building.
Jordan asked the city to partner with Bridges of Hope by using a portion of the money set aside for the building’s demolition to match funds raised by BOH for capital improvements to the building. The city would deed the building and a reasonable portion of the land to BOH with the stipulation that if for any reason BOH ceases to exist, the ownership would revert back to the city.
BOH proposed a three-phase plan, the first of which includes raising $50,000 by May 31, 2016 and the city matching those funds by the same date. It also would establish a board of directors, an operational board and hire an administrative director. The city would continue to provide a maintenance level of heat and maintain insurance of the building. City Manager Brent Merriman estimated the utilities to cost $23,000 during that time.
Phase 2, which would take place through November 2016, requires BOH to raise an additional $125,000, have at least two or three anchor ministries functioning and have HVAC updated and functioning. It would then assume the cost to maintain utilities. The city would help with repairs on the driveway and parking areas, maintain insurance and match the $125,000.
Phase 3, which ends December 2017, requires BOH to raise another $125,000, be in full operation and assume full responsibility for the property. The city would provide $125,000 in matching funds and transfer the building’s ownership.
“The Simon Kenton building is a perfect building for our needs,” Jordan said. “But it has some real challenges.”
Among them are the roof, HVAC and plumbing — all of which need repairs or replacement — and a lack of inside sprinklers, which are required by law in order to house a homeless shelter. Sprinklers are estimated to cost $300,000 while the other repairs are in the $750,000 to $1 million range, according to Marlene Labig of the Jeremiah Tree, one of the BOH ministries. That money would come through fund-raising efforts and would not be passed along to the city, Labig said.
“We’re just asking for you to give us a chance,” she said.
Nobody on council was ready to make a decision Thursday but all were in agreement that the MOU should be extended while BOH officials gather more information.
“It’s a very worthwhile project,” Councilman Wes Smith said.
John Caupp raised concern that in a year’s time BOH was not able to raise any money, even thought that’s the time frame BOH officials said they would need.
“The costs keep stacking up on that building,” he said.