The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020

Council OKs Washington site legislation

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

It took a special session of Van Wert City Council to do so, but the former Washington School site will now apparently join the property of its twin, Franklin School, as new city parks.

Van Wert City Board of Education President Ken Markward speaks during a discussion Monday night concerning acceptance of the former Washington School site into the city. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Van Wert City Board of Education President Ken Markward speaks during a discussion Monday night concerning acceptance of the former Washington School site into the city. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

City Council unanimously adopted an emergency resolution authorizing Mayor Don Farmer to sign a memorandum of understanding with Van Wert City Schools to take ownership of the Washington property. The only Council member not voting for the resolution was Councilman At-Large Brent Crone, who couldn’t attend the meeting and was excused by vote of his colleagues.

Although outgoing Councilman At-Large Jeff Agler was disappointed that the mayor would not sign the memorandum Monday night, most Council members accepted Mayor Farmer’s promise to do so as soon as some details were ironed out.

“We are not trying to avoid signing the memorandum, but want to get the correct wording and then it will be signed,” the mayor said, adding, “It is not the intention of this administration to block the transfer of this property to the city.”

Although not completely satisfied with the fact the memorandum won’t be signed until later, Third Ward Councilman Stuart Jewett, chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee who also leaves office today, offered words of conciliation to Mayor Farmer.

“I feel like we have made progress,” Jewett said. “I appreciate the promises you have made; it has been a long road, but we have finally come to a good spot.”

Mayor Farmer also promised representatives of Van Wert Youth Football that they would be involved in future negotiations with Van Wert City Schools dealing with the future usage of the Washington School site.

The volunteer group has pledged to maintain the site, including snow removal and mowing, if it is allowed to use at least a portion of the site as a football field.

Although it appears as if the road has finally been cleared for the Washington School site to become a city park, it hasn’t always been a smooth road. Several members of Council have accused Mayor Farmer of trying to block and delay the acceptance of the school site into the city because of his opposition to adding more property to the city’s park areas.

The mayor has said in the past that he doesn’t feel the city’s already overstretched parks department can handle the addition of more acreage that would need to be maintained. Mayor Farmer also opposed accepting the Franklin School site into the city, but relented when philanthropist and Van Wert native Scott Niswonger pledged money to pay for development of that site.

In fact, the mayor noted that the Franklin School site negotiations are still incomplete, pending approval of plans now being formulated by architects Niswonger brought in to provide a design for that park.

Washington and Franklin schools were built in the mid-1950s and were nearly identical in layout and appearance. The nearly 60-year-old schools were demolished this year after a new elementary school was constructed to house all city elementary students in grades 1-5. The former Jefferson Elementary School was also expanded and renovated to become the new Van Wert Early Childhood Center, which houses pre-kindergarten and kindergarten schools.

Also Monday, City Council approved last-minute supplemental appropriations requested by City Auditor Martha Balyeat needed to balance the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

POSTED: 12/31/13 at 8:48 am. FILED UNDER: News