By Timothy Cox
MENDON -- Members of the local Lions Club -- and many others in town -- are concerned about what the future holds for the Parkway school building that will no longer be needed when the district's new consolidated facility opens in Rockford in 2006.
The school site is critical to the Lions' fund-raising efforts, club member Dan Crouch said at a village council meeting Tuesday. The school plays host to the club's annual auction and the annual Firecracker Festival, which the Lions host along with two other community groups. Without the revenue generated there, the club would be unable to fund its current programs, which include scholarships, an Easter egg hunt and the annual Halloween parade, Crouch said.
But Crouch said he and many others in the community believe the aging building should be demolished. He suggested replacing the school building with a community building that could be used for many purposes. Parkway school's building budget for its construction project includes money to demolish existing buildings in Mendon, Willshire and Rockford.
Crouch agreed to seek volunteers from throughout the community to serve on a committee that would look into how the school site could best be used and whether any grant opportunities for a community building might be available.
"The center of our community has always been right there at the school," Crouch said. Council members generally agreed, but also acknowledged there are some people in the community who do not want the old school torn down. The general consensus is that fixing up the building and converting it to other uses would cost nearly as much as building something new.
In either case, the town has little or no money to put toward any effort.
"The town has no money to support that," council member Janice Clay said. "I personally would like to see them put up a community building."
Other ideas have been floated, such as keeping only the cafeteria portion of the building to serve as sort of a community outpost. Again, the general feeling was that something new could be built for a comparable price.
The Lions Club generates about 90 percent of its revenue at the school site. The auction -- which raised $4,500 last year -- could not feasibly be held at any other location in town, Crouch said. The festival could still go on with the addition of more tents to take the place of the school, which is used during the festival mostly for its cafeteria and kitchen, Crouch said.
Keeping the ball diamonds around the school site also is critical for the benefit of the community, council members said.
At Clay's urging, Crouch agreed to seek people from various community groups to serve on a committee to study the issue and offer ideas for the future of the school site. The school district will be forced to make a decision on whether to demolish the school in less than 18 months.