By Martha B. Jacob –
R-U-L-H School Board Treasurer Jeff Rowley met Jan. 10 with the members of the Ripley Village Council regarding a community park scheduled to be built at the elementary school.
The original plan for the park began in 2001 as a collaborative effort between the Village of Ripley and RULH Schools.
“When this project first began in 2001, the Village of Ripley donated the property to the school,” Rowley said. “That property was formerly known as Stivers Community Park since the Stivers family had donated it to the village. It was to be used for the construction of the new elementary school.
“In late 2003 to early 2004 as the new ES and MS projects were nearing completion, the district began experiencing leaks in the roof structure at the high school. In March of 2004, the RULH Board of Education with the assistance of legal counsel and the (Ohio Schools Facilities Commission) employed NTH Consultants to assist in determining the cause and source of the leaks and to determine if it needed replaced and to testify on districts behalf if necessary.”
Rowley went on to describe the next several years as a mess for the district as it was tied up in a civil suit and the park project had to be put on hold.
“This case wasn’t settled until 2012,” Rowley said. “In January of 2013 the reconciliation of the project construction fund was approved, and it looked like we could move forward.
“The board approved and authorized the execution of the Certificate of Completion to close-out the project agreement and the treasurer was authorized to retain the remaining local share and investment earnings in the Capital Improvement Fund for future projects. The amount set aside for RULH share of the park project was $50,000.”
Rowley said since that time the school district has had two different treasurers and a new superintendent who knew nothing about the park project until it was brought to her attention.
Mr. Rowley talked at length to council about how the original plan was to build a complete park to include bathrooms, sidewalks and a gazebo and picnic tables. The park would be for the entire community.
However, when the school district picked the project back up in 2014, the board decided that the money would better serve the community by building a shelter house type structure instead of a gazebo, that would include restrooms, similar to what was original in Stivers park.
The board hired an architectural firm to put together drawings of the structure and to give an estimate on the project before moving forward. But, through a series of problems and wrong estimates, a park that started out costing approximately $50,000 had now jumped to between $116,000 to $220,000. The board also hired an architectural firm to give the school a cost analysis which cost $11,796 plus $843 to advertise for bids. The balance still available for the project is $37,361.
“After getting several bids on the new projects, we realized we had to change the original plans,” Rowley said. “So I am here tonight to discuss the new plans we have.
“At this point in time, after consulting with our facilities and maintenance supervisor Dick Zurbuch, we feel it would be better to build some kind of shelter with picnic tables as opposed to gazebo with bathrooms and a concession stand. We’ve received a bid from Ripley Builders for $23,880 which our board has accepted. That leaves $9,500 to purchase picnic tables and about $4000 for sidewalks. Our plan is to have a place for a port-a-let nearby for visitors.”
Rowley showed a sketch of the newly proposed structure which will be 24 ft. by 40 ft., by 10 ft.
Mayor Tom Leonard said he believed it was time to get the project started, however when the vote came up, the project received three yes votes from Councilwomen Nowana Bingaman, Kathy Lewis and Tiffany Regenstein and three no votes from Councilmen Dave Otis, Travis Arnett and Charles Poole. Mayor Leonard was the tie breaker who approved the schools plan.