Northville School board lashes back
Dec. 2, 2018 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Plymouth Michigan News
In an open letter to the City, members of the Northville School Board accused city leaders of appeasing a group preservationists by filing a lawsuit to block the demolition of the old Main Street Elementary School.
“In short, your city has chosen to appease a few preservationists to try to block the demolition of a building the city does not pay to maintain and has no budget to maintain and which it does not have jurisdiction to regulate.”
We have served as your school board for a collective 34 years, and in that time we’ve rarely seen the need to publicize matters affecting this community outside our regular board meetings. However, we feel it is vitally important that the community understand action the City of Northville taken against the city’s own schools.
Late last week, the city sued Northville Schools in State Court. The city apparently wishes for us to continue to use your taxes entrusted to our care – not for books, teachers and so on – but to maintain a building we cannot use: Main Street School.
The process of determining the best opportunity to preserve our two Main Street facilities has spanned several years, and this included discussions to combine district and city offices to cohabitate within Old Village School. The city determined their budget would not make this a viable solution. Without a community partner to fund revitalization, our board then moved forward with its own plan, informed by our obligation to focus on kids rather than only on architectural considerations.
After thoughtful consideration and seeking the advice of a bevy of legal and real estate experts, the district chose to dedicate significant funds to rescue the much older and more beloved Old Village School and to relocate the board offices and early childhood programs from Main Street.
With Main Street vacant, the board openly bid for repurposing Main Street. The city could have bid for Main Street School, but failed to do so. Eight bids were received for consideration, several of which called for its demolition and none that would have preserved it as is. Our board held numerous public meetings and heard from scores of citizens at those meetings about what to do with the bids. The community loudly objected to saving and repurposing Main Street, which would have involved making it into a 20-40 unit condo or apartment building. Citizens cited concerns with traffic and potential threats to the students attending the early childhood programs next door, among other considerations.
If state law supported this action, perhaps we could agree that reasonable minds differ here. However, this same kabuki theater played itself out in Walled Lake just recently. In that case, the city of Walled Lake wanted the school district to foot the bill to preserve an old school building, and they sued to stop demolition. After everyone paid their lawyers and the dust settled the demolition was allowed – because the law says the authority to deal with school properties resides exclusively in the school board as overseen by the state Superintendent. (After all, we are the ones who have to pay for school property maintenance!)
In short, your city has chosen to appease a few preservationists to try to block the demolition of a building the city does not pay to maintain and has no budget to maintain and which it does not have jurisdiction to regulate. Worst of all, this action means you (the taxpayers), are now suing you (the taxpayers). That’s not a typo. City residents: your city is using your tax dollar to sue us, and we in turn have nothing but city and township citizens’ tax dollars to be used to defend the district. And, again, all of this is designed to force us to expend district operating budget dollars to preserve a building we cannot use.
We think that is wrong and hope you let the city know if you agree this is a terrible decision for our community.
Northville Board of Education
Photo: City of Northville