Oxford City Council met in work session Tuesday night to discuss the potential of acquiring Talawanda High School on Chestnut St. after the new high school opens next school year.
Among the many still unanswered questions, council discussed the possibilities of buying the 140,000 square foot facility along with its 27 acres of land, or potentially leasing the space from the school district while possibly sub-leasing to other organizations.
Although the chance to purchase the building, built in 1939, is a unique opportunity for the city, council questioned whether or not the city is able or willing to abandon its uptown presence.
Another issue is the building’s age. Built in the days of the Great Depression, the building would require serious remodeling in order to fit the needs of police, administration, new recreation areas or possibly an expansion of the senior citizens center.
“I don’t want us to move from an old building to another bigger, old building unless it’s going to be something we can be proud of,” said Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott.
Coming into the work session, council estimated a total of $100 per square foot for renovations.
With the appraisal for purchasing the facility at $2.1 million the price after renovations would be upwards of $4 million, a figure that council agreed the city cannot afford right now.
Even though the city is considered a serious player when it comes to vying for the facilities, other social service organizations are also looking to access the much needed space.
Prue Dana, former Oxford mayor and member of the Greater Oxford Assistance Links (GOAL), says GOAL’s interests lie in creating a “one stop” area for social services such as the Choice Food Pantry, The United Way, the Oxford College Corner Clinic and even the state-run Department of Job and Family Services.
“These groups need to work together to benefit the citizens of the community,” Dana said. “That’s the first charge. That’s why governments are here but we are all in very strapped positions financially.”
According to the council, the Talawanda School Board has not told the city if they want to sell or lease out the facilities, but they do plan on keeping the district’s bus garage plus one acre and have also shown interest in creating an Early Childhood Development Center or an alternative school.
Oxford Mayor Richard Keebler said the city “will never get another opportunity like this again but we’re at the point where we need some guidance.”
There are also ideas of possibly purchasing the property and letting it sit until the funds come about, or even demolishing the structures and using the land for an endless list of possibilities.
The next step is for the city to conduct a feasibility study as to whether the old high school would suit its needs, a study that would cost the city anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.
City Council will meet in regular session April 5.