By Courtney Kerrigan
BARBERTON: Board of Education members voted 3-1 Wednesday to sell the vacant Portage Elementary to a nonprofit agency for $1.
Christian Healthcare Ministries bought the building to expand its operations. It is outgrowing its current location, at 127 Hazelwood Ave., and without the purchase would be forced to relocate outside the city, board President Joe Stefan said.
The nonprofit is a voluntary, cost-sharing ministry through which Christians meet each other’s medical bills.
Board member Megann Eberhart cast the dissenting vote, saying she is worried about the buy-back language in the contract.
“I’m not discrediting the business, but I don’t think it’s fair to sell a property at such a low price with the possibility of the buy-back,” she said. “I don’t want it to cost the school district anything in the long run.”
Eberhart was referring to a stipulation that says if Christian Healthcare Ministries were to try to sell the building to a third party, the Barberton school district would be allowed to match that offer.
If the third party were an educational institute with “deep pockets,” such as a charter school Eberhart said, she is concerned the district wouldn’t be able to afford the buy-back. Then the charter could set up in the city, essentially taking money away from the city school system.
Stefan, however, explained the nonprofit’s commitment to the building and the $1.4 million it would cost the city to tear down the building if no one bought it. And with the expansion of Christian Healthcare Ministries comes more jobs, he said.
Board members also passed a work-study program for Barberton High School seniors supported through a $21,000 grant from the Barberton Community Foundation.
“It gives the ability for our own seniors to go out and get some experience and still get credit for it,” Superintendent Patti Cleary said.
The program targets seniors who already have completed most required credits and can earn elective credits through work experience, such as in internships.