Residents of Sugar Grove have lost their elementary school.
Now, they are hoping the building and the surrounding property will not be lost to them as well.
At a town meeting Monday night, 18 residents discussed the future of that property.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Sugar Grove Borough Council members (from left) Craig Robbins, David Bauer, and Kevin McIntyre respond to questions and ideas regarding the disposition of the former Sugar Grove Elementary School during a town meeting Monday night.
"We don't have another place like that in the borough," council member David Bauer said. "It's irreplaceable."
The problem is, the borough does not want to take on responsibility for it.
"I would like to have it available to the community, but the borough doesn't have the money to maintain that building," Mayor David Allenson said.
"We would have to have a lot of partners," Bauer said.
That might not be a problem.
"We have a community that gives a lot," he said. "I would like to think that if we have uses for that building that will benefit the community and the kids, we'll find a way."
If the district were to sell the property to someone else, the community would lose out on valuable assets.
"If they sold the whole thing, we'd still want to preserve the ball fields," Allenson said. "At all costs we want to save the ball fields. If they sold the whole thing, we'd go looking for ball fields."
Both the Eisenhower football team and cheerleading squad were practicing at the school Monday evening.
Officials would like to ensure that kind of activity can continue.
"They practiced here all summer," Allenson said. "I just want to keep it active - people coming in and out of there."
"It is a gathering place for the community," Bauer said. "It would be nice to be able to continue to use it the way we do now. It does get a lot of use during the summer."
The latest information available to the council and community indicates that the district will maintain ownership of the property, use a portion of the building for storage and possibly maintenance, and not remove some playground equipment for use at the new Eisenhower Elementary School, according to Bauer.
That is good news for the community.
But, many would like some assurances that they can count on that situation to last and that they will be allowed to use the building to some degree.
"How long do they plan to do this?" Allenson asked. "I'd like to know what their long-range plans are."
"They said we'd be allowed to use the community room," Beverly Carlberg, representing the Sugar Grove Free Library, said. "Is there a fee? Who maintains it?"
The maintenance concern was raised with respect to playground equipment as well.
Another concern was that the building not be allowed to deteriorate.
"Everybody in this community has a concern that this building doesn't become an albatross like the one down in Pittsfield," Sandra Brown said.
Bauer agreed. "When we met with the school district in the spring, that was one of the main things we emphasized. We did not want to see this building become an eyesore. It's too important."
There were several suggestions for possible uses for the building in addition to continuing to use it as a gathering place.
Vincent Baran suggested the young people of the borough would benefit from a small-scale trade school program during the summer.
Carlberg said the library's summer lunch program was too big to handle inside the library. Also, the library does not have a kitchen and the lunches were prepared at the Sugar Grove AMVETS. Space, including use of the kitchen, at the school would allow the program to continue and grow, she said.
A Sugar Grove museum proposal has been discussed in the past. Carlberg said the school would be ideal for such a program. "There needs to be a place for those things," she said. "That would be perfect."
"We would like to move our food pantry out of the basement of our church into a better location," Jim McIntyre, representing the Sugar Grove Free Methodist Church food pantry, said. "I think it would be a good fit for us."
The pantry serves about 100 area families per month, he said. Making residents, some of whom are handicapped, go down stairs into the church basement creates a hardship for them, he said.
Sometimes, the pantry cannot take advantages of special offers because of its space constraints, Julie McIntyre said.
The meeting was not intended to make formal decisions. That power, for now, is in the hands of the school district.
"We'll set up another meeting," Bauer said. "The committee will keep working on it."
As the meeting broke up, he asked residents to continue to bring ideas to the council and the committee.
"If you walk away from this and think of something else, get a hold of one of us," he said.