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Geneva Woman Asks City Council to Help Save Coultrap From Wrecking Ball

A resident calls on the City Council for help saving the 90-year-old school building, but officials say the city can't and won't intervene.

A Geneva resident called on Geneva City Council members Tuesday night to weigh in on the possible demolition of the Coultrap school building, but elected officials said there's not much they can do.

Carolyn Givens, 101 Sandholm St., addressed the council during its "new business" portion of the agenda, saying she is "appalled, frankly" that the School District would consider tearing down a 90-year-old building.

"I’m appealing to you as a citizen of Geneva to tell the School Board that the old building is worth saving," she said. "They (School Board members) feel the building is a piece of trash they should tear down for lumber, and I think you as individuals should say something. The nails in this building are older than any of us here."

Givens noted the School Board's Facilities Task Force had come up with four scenarios for the building, which once was Geneva's high school and later became a middle school and grade school.

One of the options—and the one that seemed to be most favored at the Jan. 14 School Board meeting—was to demolish the building and hold the property as green space. Three other options included relocating the district's Fourth Street administrative offices into the Coultrap facility.

"Saving the old part of the school is not in their options of study," Givens said. "I would like to know why."

Mayor Kevin Burns said the city could not speak for the School District and had no intention of "thwarting" School District officials' decision.

"My personal position is that the ultimate determination rests with the elected board," Burns said.

Burns said the city would review any demolition permit, as it would any other permit inside city limits. The property is outside the city's Historic Preservation District, however, so it would not go before the Historic Preservation Commission, which is an advisory body to the City Council.

The mayor said the city and School District work cooperatively on many joint ventures and meet quarterly to discuss issues of mutual interest. In regard to the Coultrap situation specifically, Burns said he had offered the the services of the city's Building Division "to provide insight, information, whatever they needed."

Fifth Ward Aldlerman Craig Maladra agreed that the Coultrap decision is outside the City Council's purview and said some people he has talked to are in favor of the demolition option. 

"Coultrap is not in a historic district," he said. "This town has experienced change since it was founded. Change happens, and change is not always negative."

Givens said she hoped that City Council members might speak out against demolition as individuals.

First Ward Alderman Chuck Brown, who used to live "catty-corner" to Coultrap, said he had done just that in private conversations with at least three School Board members, asking, "Can't we save the old building?"

"All the boards cooperate to see if we can do things that save us money, so we have to be a little careful about enforcing our will on them," he said. "I have made my opinions known, but in the end, I have to respect their decision. I will be sorry if indeed they are pulling the building down."

The School Board is expected to vote on the issue at its Jan. 18 meeting.

 

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Ellen Piccony January 24, 2013 at 01:47 AM
It's been my experience that you can't count on this Geneva administration to help with anything at all.
Jeff January 24, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Carolyn - if it's so important to save an obsolete building, start passing the hat to get contributions. But don't burden the already overtaxed citizens of Geneva.
Rudy January 24, 2013 at 02:55 AM
I did not know bricks were obsolete ?? Cheaper to fix old than build new trust me that is the plan tear it down then saddle with more debt wait and see! They have already said they won't sell the property.
Tom Brown January 24, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Rudy: Bricks are not obsolete. When the building comes down, you can get some for your driveway. Recycle, reuse!!! All: This is a big building we don't need anymore. It's got layers of lead-based paint on its walls. It's got asbestos. It's got an old HVAC system that needs replacement and a roof that needs a lot of work too. Because it's a government building, every repair needs to be done according to strict codes and guidelines for public buildings. Level it. Make a nice park. Keep the land and build something nice later if and when the need arises. Don't saddle the city with an ongoing expense like this because you can't let go. The neighborhood would be much better served with a beautiful park than with an obsolete building with inadequate parking on narrow streets. I think people have it in their minds that tearing the building down is a waste of money when just the opposite is true. BTW: My grammar school in Elmhurst was leveled. I got a real shock about 20 years ago on a nostalgia cruise when I saw a very nice park in its place. I got over it. You will too.
Kevin Brouillette January 24, 2013 at 05:49 PM
This building is not obsolete. If the Geneva School District had maintained the building properly, the building would have been more than useable and the taxpayers of Geneva would not have had to spend money building a new elementary school. I think if you would like to talk about saving the taxpayers money, we should consider the option that the school district sell this property which they are not using. It would be a shame to see a structurally sound building be demolished because the proper decisions were not made at an earlier date to ensure the building would remain useable.
Paul Bellinger January 24, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Vote "NO"----the bldg must GO-----everything in this country needs a forum--discussion--study--etc. I am sick and tired of it. This demolition will not cause our children and grandchildren any angst.
Paul Bellinger January 24, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Just because the Geneva admin does not vote in your favor on one issue---they are not completely dysfunctional as is our Congress.
Betty Collins January 25, 2013 at 03:23 AM
I agree that the building should be torn down. It is my understanding that the reason the School District does not want to sell the property is that it will need it for future expansion for the high school if & when that is necessary. This would seem to be a forward-looking decision on their part. People always seem to ask why the School District doesn't build the schools larger & plan for future growth. Seems like that is what they are doing. Remember, when the economy starts to grow, building will start up again & one of the areas slated for a large building development is around LaFox & a majority of the students from this development will be in the Geneva School District!
Dan January 28, 2013 at 09:12 PM
The article mentioned a vote will be at the jan 18 meeting, but that's a typo, and the meeting is tonight 1/28 at 7pm. Public comments can still be made before the vote according to the agenda on the boards website.

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