Grand Rapids at odds over future use of elementary school
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 12 March 2013 08:39
GRAND RAPIDS - Despite being prevented from speaking at a council meeting on Monday, a village woman will have her plan for the former Grand Rapids Elementary discussed during a council committee meeting on Thursday.
Following a 4-2 vote, council members agreed to meet Thursday in committee to discuss a proposal made by Lynn Sylvain and Dr. E. Dorinda Shelley to turn the former elementary school into the "Grand Rapids Arts and Educational Center," which would focus on art, literacy, senior enrichment and serve as a community resource. The village purchased the building from the Otsego School District in December and plans call for it to be demolished and turned into green space.
More than 20 people packed the tiny council chamber on Monday to hear discussion about the proposal.
Mayor Marjory Obermyer said she didn't see the plan as a feasible one and said it lacked the solid financials of a business plan.
Several council members then spoke in favor of hearing more about the proposal.
"From what I can see, there was some viable information in (the plan). I'd like to at least have a meeting," said council member Sara Lewis.
"I would like to hear a little bit more because we have never sat down for an hour and actually had a complete conversation," she said.
Obermyer said Sylvain was given her chance to speak on several occasions prior to Monday's council meeting.
"She has had plenty of opportunities to bring it to us. We asked for a viable plan. We still haven't got a viable plan. We've got ideas. We've got concepts. We have been asking and asking and she has been set aside time.
"I am just telling you so that you know so it isn't out of the blue that we haven't let her speak," she continued.
"I've signed in. Are you going to let me speak," Sylvain asked the mayor.
"No ma'am. I told you that. And I gave you the heads up that we are not going to," Obermyer responded.
Not all council members agree the plan has been given its due diligence.
After the exchange between the mayor and Sylvain, council member Curt Williams told the mayor, "Just because you disagree with it not being viable, doesn't mean we all have to disagree."
The mayor responded: "That's why we are going to have a vote and then proceed from there."
Williams also accused council, the mayor and Sylvain of handling the situation poorly, thus far.
"Let's face is. There clearly is some professionalism that was not had on all sides," Williams said.
"This has not been handled well. This is our opportunity, as an elected group of people, to do this the way we are supposed to do it."
"Someone put forth a plan. Is it absolutely perfect? No. Is it worth a discussion? I absolutely agree that it is," Williams continued.
Following council member comments, member John Berry made a motion to table the plan permanently.
Berry and council member Jeremy Treen voted "yes" to table the plan permanently, while Janet Borough, Williams, Lewis and Carolyn Erdody voted against the measure.
Council later went into an eight-minute executive session to discuss sale of property. No action was taken after the closed-door session.
However, Sylvain's plan was again discussed after Obermyer asked if there was any unfinished business.
"Yeah. We have to talk about the school and finish talking about this proposal," Williams said.
Council members agreed to have a discussion about the plan on Thursday at 5 p.m. in council chambers at the town hall.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 17:51