XENIA — City Council Thursday officially extended a memorandum of understanding with the organization hoping to turn the former Simon Kenton Elementary School building into a faith-based hub of life-enriching services.
Simon Kenton Bridges of Hope, which has been working for more than a year to secure operational needs and tenants for the city-owned building, was given another year to make it work. But if the group fails to meet certain benchmarks or the city has a rock solid opportunity to sell the building, the MOU can be terminated. The city also extended the moratorium on demolishing the building.
The MOU and moratorium expire Dec. 31.
The multi-phased project will require at least $1 million to get the building up and running, according to SKBOH executive director Michael Deis, and a yearly operating budget of approximately $152,000.
The building needs a new HVAC system, a fire suppression system, plumbing repair and upgrades and roof repair and/or replacement, according to Deis. He plans to hire a construction company to do further assessments, at a cost of $8,500.
In January SKBOH identified sources of potential funding. Deis said he is completing applications with several foundations and also told council that a total of six corporations, with whom he has connections, have pledged support.
As of last month SKBOH had raised $6,000. The first benchmark in the MOU requires Bridges of Hope to raise $50,000 by June 30. The proposal to the city also states that Bridges of Hope will raise an additional $100,000 by Dec. 31.
Council members Jeanne Mills and Dale Louderback expressed concerns last month and reiterated those again Thursday. Mills said the phased approach with benchmarks added to the MOU answers her questions.
Louderback brought up several reasons for casting the lone no vote. He said at first he thought the project was a good idea, but after some investigation, he discovered that there are already a plethora of resources available in Greene County and Xenia.
Louderback also said the Xenia Community School District is contemplating building new high school and middle school buildings and of four possible sites, only one — the Simon Kenton location — is within the city limits. He said it would be “devastating to our tax base” if the schools are built outside the city.
Bridges of Hope has also asked the city to contribute the money it anticipates spending on demolition — approximately $300,000 — to the project. Mills and Louderback are both against that.
“We don’t have it, it’s not ours to give,” Mills said of the money, which has not been budgeted yet.
Louderback said it would create a “dangerous precedent” to give money to a 501(c)(3), “especially a faith-based organization.” He also said the city simply doesn’t have that kind of money to give away.
“We can not afford to give money to Bridges of Hope in my opinion,” he said. “They haven’t shown good faith.”
The MOU requires Bridges of Hope to give monthly updates beginning March 1. The vote on the MOU was 5-1. Councilman Edgar Wallace, who had served on the board of SKBOH, was absent.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.