Cleveland City Schools might have the funding it needs to pay its gymnasium architect if the Webb building sells for a good price.
The Cleveland City Council voted unanimously Monday to sell the downtown office building and give the proceeds to the school system to pay for architectural fees. Councilman Bill Estes was absent. According to the motion made by Councilman At-Large Richard Banks, the building will be sold at auction to “the highest and best bidder.”
Banks said the building had been given to the city and was not being used. The exact appraisal amount is unknown.
District 1 Councilman Charlie McKenzie said it was $200,000.
Banks said that number was given for donation purposes, not the true appraisal.
City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff said the school had already incurred $33,000 in fees. Architectural fees could total $300,000. The school system has also already incurred some architectural fees on the proposed new elementary school.
“We need to keep him (the architect) happy, because he did a good job,” Banks said.
A motion made to get bids on rerouting the utilities and demolition was later withdrawn before a vote was made. Demolition of the structure will have to be carefully planned.
Ringstaff said the main water lines for the high school are located under the building.
“We couldn’t move the water lines until school is out, because it would have to be cut off for about a week,” Ringstaff said. “May is going to be the earliest we could do anything major.”
Rerouting the lines will be coordinated with Cleveland Utilities.
A package presentation on demolishing and rebuilding the gym had the demolition costing $500,000.
“He (architect Brian Templeton) shot that very high to cover any kind of contingencies that they don’t see when they get in there. He did that in the package deal with the $12.5 million presentation; however, I think he overshot that to be safe ... worst-case scenario,” Ringstaff said.
How to fund the demolition and reconstruction of the Cleveland High School Raider Dome was left for another day. A sales tax increase was discussed as a possible option. However, Banks doubted there would be the needed four votes from the Council to pass an increase. He suggested selling bricks from the old gym to raise community awareness and support for the project. District 5 Councilman Dale Hughes said he did not expect the school system to have to “sell chicken dinners” to raise money for the new gym.
“And we’ll do that, but we know that won’t raise $12 million,” Cleveland Board of Education member Dawn Robinson said. “We will do anything we can to get the support of the citizens for the gym. But, honestly, all the people I talk to out there, I haven’t heard one person complain about a 9- or 10-cent [property] tax increase for that. They just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘We have to have a gym.’ And their kids are long gone and graduated.”
Banks said selling the bricks is not about raising the entire amount. Instead, it is about getting the community behind the project.
“This will definitely get the people involved, if you tear it down, and you got students over there we keep transporting (for athletic games) to another school. People are going to get the message that we are really being careful about what we are doing, and we aren’t just up here raising taxes to be raising taxes,” Vice Mayor Avery Johnson said.
Johnson said in the past the Council had raised taxes for a project and then lowered taxes when it had additional revenue from other sources.
Casteel said this might not be possible because of the additional need of a new elementary school.
District 4 Councilman David May said he wanted to have a plan for paying for the project before anything was voted on.
Council members suggested the school system use its portion of sales tax revenue toward the project.
Ringstaff said the money is used for improvements and upkeep of the buildings to keep the school system from needing additional funds in the future. A presentation was made to the Council outlining the issues with the building. The presentation included a diagram marking cracks in the walls and when they had been noticed.
“We know the bottom line, we just don’t have a way to fund the bottom line,” said Janice Casteel, city manager.
Replacing the dome has been estimated to cost $12 million. She said the Council cannot begin the project until it does a bond issue, otherwise the money from the bond issue could not be used to reimburse the city for work previously done. The Council had talked about wanting to bid the project to have specific costs.
Ringstaff said the architect had provided as much information as he would without being paid.
The Raider Dome opened in 1965. The roof is a unique design, which uses tension to hold it in place, according to Hal Taylor, director of maintenance for Cleveland City Schools.
When the gym was built, steel reinforcements or poured concrete were not used to reinforce the walls. Over time the weight of the roof has caused the cement blocks in the wall to crack and start to bulge. Bricks on the outer wall were turned sideways at different intervals.
Taylor said holes were made in the cement blocks to allow the bricks to fit. The holes were then filled with mortar. He said it appeared the holes had been made simply by banging the wall with a hammer.