AC-WH board approves agreement to buy building

AC-WH board approves agreement to buy building

The Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center Board of Education approved an agreement to purchase the Ashland County Service Center building next door to the school for $500,000 as part of a $43 million facility upgrade plan. The board also voted at a special meeting on June 30 to approve a lease agreement that will allow the county health department and the Emergency Management Agency to remain in the facility until the former Rite Aid building on Claremont Avenue in Ashland is renovated to house the two agencies.

Rod Cheyney, career center superintendent, said the board action finalizes the sale, which the Ashland County commissioners approved earlier in the day. The board and commissioners had been negotiating the sale for nearly a year.

“The biggest stumbling block for them was they didn’t know where they were going to put the health department and EMA until they found the old Rite Aid building, which made things easier,” Cheyney said.

The lease agreement calls for the county to pay the utility bills for the health department and EMA, based on a percentage of the square footage they use in the service center, beginning January 2023. Leases for three nongovernment entities that also are operating in the building will transfer to the career center when the sale is finalized. Those leases expire at the end of 2022.

Cheyney said the next step in the upgrade process is to meet with the design professionals of SHP and the construction manager at Hammond Construction to determine the best way to go with the design and construction work. He said most of the adult education classes will be moved to the lower level of the service center building because officials are expecting over 500 secondary students in the main building in the 2022-23 school year.

“We’re going to use some of the adult education classroom space for academic space in the main building. Plus we’re adding a secondary HVAC program next year,” Cheyney said.

Voters in Ashland and Holmes counties approved a 1.1-mill permanent improvement levy in November to upgrade and remodel the 49-year-old career center building and remodel the service center building, possibly for current and expanded adult education programs, workforce development, and administrative offices.

“We still have to look at the whole plan and see how we can make do with the areas that we have,” Cheyney said. “We really have to get in and evaluate the service center building.”

Cheyney said officials also are looking at initially using the newly purchased building as what he described as swing space during construction by moving academic classes there while the academic portion of the secondary building is being renovated. The need for that flexibility could mean remodeling at the service center may be done later.

Cheyney said it likely will be late spring 2023 before information is put together and designs are ready so things can be put out for bid.

“A lot of it has to do with this building next door — how we’re going to move forward with it,” he said. “We really needed this to start finalizing plans on how we’re going to do things here at the career center.”

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission committed $10.8 million in state funding toward renovations at the career center after it put the school at the top of the list of career-technical schools for state aid to improve existing facilities in 2019. Cheyney said officials are working with the commission, SHP and Hammond Construction to make sure the project funds are spent accordingly.

In other business the career center board hired Mike Earick as the school’s new HVAC/R instructor. The board voted in April to approve the program, which will start in the 2022-23 school year and allow secondary students to receive the same certifications as students in the current adult program.

The board also learned a 25% property tax abatement has been approved for a new gas station on U.S. 250 just east of the Ashland exit of Interstate 71. School treasurer Julie Smith said the $5 million project will create 12 full-time and three part-time jobs.

The board also approved a $219,018 increase in fiscal year 2022 appropriations. Smith said the addition is needed to make inter-fund transfers for several adult education programs.