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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