The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023

Starr joins discussion on VW campus

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Further discussions were held Thursday on the possibility of a partnership that could bring new life to now-idle Starr Commonwealth campus in Van Wert.

Starr President/CEO Marty Mitchell (left) listens as Starr CFO Christopher Smith provides information on the Starr-Van Wert campus. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Starr President/CEO Marty Mitchell (left) listens as Starr CFO Christopher Smith provides information on the Starr-Van Wert campus. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

This time, Starr’s top management, including President/CEO Martin “Marty” Mitchell, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Christopher Smith, Starr Senior Vice President Thomas Tate (who is also a Van Wert resident and former Starr-Van Wert director), and Starr’s chief strategy officer Elizabeth Carey, were also on hand to provide input from Starr on its plans for the Van Wert facility.

Those back from the first meeting on the topic included County Commissioners Stan Owens, Thad Lichtensteiger and Todd Wolfrum, Northwest State Community College President Thomas Stuckey, Cindy Torppa from the Ohio State University Extension, Marsh Foundation Trustee Gary Clay and County Economic Development Director Sarah Smith.

Also attending was Sue Gerker from the county ED office and Commissioners’ Clerk Ryanne Bollenbacher.

Those attending first looked at a business plan drawn up for the facility by Sarah Smith, which proposed connecting business and academia in a partnership that would train and educate local young people and adults.

“By studying locally and completing coursework through programs like College Credit Plus in the county high schools, a significant savings in both housing and tuition would be experienced across the board,” Smith wrote in her business plan.

Christopher Smith then talked about Starr’s plans for the Van Wert campus, noting that, while Starr would prefer to sell the facility, which has been in Van Wert since 1951, but closed a few years back because of dwindling numbers in the organization’s boys’ and girls’ residential treatment programs, it was also interested in looking at lease or partnership agreements, if they fit into Starr’s overall mission.

Starr’s CFO noted that a recent appraisal of the property valued it at approximately $8 million, but added that’s not likely what Starr would sell it for.

“We’re very realistic, thinking this is replacement cost, not market value,” he said, noting that Starr has not taken the next step to determine what market value of the facility would be.

Starr officials did note that any lease or partnership agreement would have to, at minimum, pay the hefty expenses Starr is incurring to maintain the Van Wert campus.

There were a number of possible programs that were discussed on Thursday for implementation on the campus, including using a portion of the area — possibly also including some adjacent Marsh Foundation acreage — as an OSU Extension agricultural research site. The county Extension office could also be moved to the Starr campus, with a portion of the $200,000 raised by the county Extension levy used for the Starr facility.

Other suggestions included a variety of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs at the facility, including possibly working with the Van Wert High School’s Robotics program to create an additional program at Starr, possibility for Lincolnview students. Other possible programs included a middle school physics program already under discussion by county and school officials.

Stuckey said his growing community college could definitely use some additional classrooms for its very successful nursing programs, but noted that Northwest State could not, at this time, use the entire Starr facility.

Mitchell said educational programs would fit into Starr’s overall mission, since Starr already operates an educational program in Detroit, Michigan.

Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger said there was a “tremendous teaching opportunity” that could be created by having educational programs at Starr-Van Wert.

There was also discussion of private partnerships with area businesses that could bring financing and new programs to Starr’s Van Wert campus, while treatment programs targeting populations such as autistic children and adults was also mentioned as a possibility.

“We’re very interested in pursuing the possibilities,” Mitchell said on behalf of Starr. “There’s a lot of energy here that’s moving in the right direction.”

The next step in the process is the creation of a subcommittee that would include representatives from each of the stakeholders in the process: the county, OSU Extension, Northwest State, Starr, the Marsh Foundation, and possibly private business interests.

Mitchell said Starr’s representative would likely be Tate, since he still resides in Van Wert and is very familiar with the Starr campus and the organization’s overall mission.

A meeting of the subcommittee should take place in a couple of weeks, although no firm date was set on Thursday.

POSTED: 02/27/15 at 9:06 am. FILED UNDER: News