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Coultrap – a tough decision

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

First days of school. Numerous grade levels. Decades of history.

The Coultrap building in Geneva School District 304 is fondly remembered by many.

Located at 1113 Peyton St., Coultrap saw nearly 90 years of heavy use during its heyday as an educational facility. It was a high school, middle school and elementary school over the years. But as time passed, the building’s purpose changed.

Since 2009, Coultrap has not been used as an attendance center. Instead, the building has been used for school board meetings, storage and a few other purposes.

Now, a big decision looms.

Because Coultrap has fallen into disrepair, discussions about demolishing the structure have taken place. A superintendent facility task force composed of five district leaders has communicated that razing the building would cost about $862,000.

On the other hand, the task force has stated that another option for Coultrap would be to relocate the District 304 administrative offices on Fourth Street to that facility. Estimates for the repairs and renovations associated with that option range from $2.3 million to $4.3 million, according to the district.

When people’s hearts are tied to a deteriorating structure and funds are an issue, there are no easy answers.

After inspecting Coultrap and assessing related information, the superintendent facility task force recommended that the building be demolished. In addition, feedback solicited on the District 304 website was 55 percent in favor of demolishing the structure versus 45 percent in favor of preserving it.

As District 304 stares an estimated $300 million worth of debt in the face, it’s difficult to justify spending the funds needed to repair and renovate Coultrap. Demolition would be in the best interest of district taxpayers.

Perhaps the current discussions swirling around Coultrap would be different if District 304 officials had handled the property in another manner after it closed as an attendance center.

Multiple public forums have given community members the chance to speak on the topic.

School board members now must determine the fate of Coultrap, and whether it has truly sounded its last bell.

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