A Letter to the Editor

This letter was sent to the Editors of the Northwest Signal on December 1, 2021

Dear Editor,

This letter is intended to clarify what some people might have inferred from the Tuesday, November 16 Northwest Signal front page story and your editorial on Saturday, November 20 regarding the City, Napoleon Area Schools, Cultural Center of Henry County and our donor and the proposal made by the City to purchase part of the Cultural Center’s land, namely the Loose Field portion of the property.

The Cultural Center of Henry County (CCHC) Board of Trustees, formerly the Napoleon Civic Center, has been working to save the Central Elementary since they received the property from the School District in 2017. While our non-profit was established in 2012, the project didn’t begin until our original agreement was signed and purchase of the property in 2017.

The basics and the first agreement with the School Board…

The original agreement is between the Napoleon Area School Board, the Napoleon Civic Center (now the Cultural Center of Henry County), the Henry County Community Foundation, Toledo Community Foundation, and an angel donor who continues to believe in our project. This angel understands the great need for a performing arts and recreation center for Henry County especially Napoleon, and wanted to ensure that we had a fighting chance to save the structure. The Napoleon Area Schools would not release the building to our nonprofit group, without a detailed agreement laced with stipulations on the project. There was also the requirement that we must have the cost of demolition set aside in escrow for the entire structure, should that become necessary. Currently our angel donor has more than $540,000 wrapped up into our project…a large stake that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The current agreement gives us until June 16, 2022 (five years after signing the agreement), to have all funds raised, all renovations finished, and have an Occupancy Permit for the building, while giving our angel donor protections for their investment into our project by giving them the proceeds for the land sale.

After the past couple of years that all of us and the world have had to deal with due to the global pandemic and with the loss of our president and founding member in 2020, Ken Neuenschwander, the CCHC Board sought to get an much needed extension this year from the School Board on our current agreement which just happened to coincide with a proposal from the City of Napoleon.

The New agreement with the City of Napoleon…

In June 2021, the CCHC was approached by the City of Napoleon for an agreement that would benefit the City’s Master Plan, our organization, and our community. This agreement gave the City the Loose Field portion ($1), CCHC three more months to raise the funds for the project (September 2022), another year to get the construction finished and the Occupancy Permit (September 2023), a $100,000 donation from the City of Napoleon if the project succeeded, and if the project didn’t succeed the City of Napoleon would be able to purchase the remaining land ($1) and construct an Amphitheater using grants and donations within 720 days. What this new agreement didn’t have was protection for our angel donor. Which in essence was the reason the agreement did not go forward and our Board respects that decision.

Where are we now…

With the ongoing global pandemic and current prices/demand of construction materials our organization had to relook at the project in its entirety. The original goal of the project was to save, at minimum, the middle section (Phase 1) which included the 700-seat theater and large gymnasium (Snake Pit) along with the adjacent classrooms behind. We found it would just be as expensive to demolish, or cut off, the sides of the building if we were to just save this section (updated estimates to demolish specific sections of the building: $480,000 for entire building, $300-380,000 just for the East Wing, and $390-$425,000 just for the West Wing) thus us changing the entire goal to save the entire building to just over $3 Million dollars ($1.9 to save the middle section at the very least).  To try to meet the deadline for completion, both Phases I and II had to be combined.  This would save the 700-seat theater, 2 large gymnasiums, cafeteria style area and the abundant number of classrooms in a structure built like none other.

Currently, we have received interest in converting the east wing (Old Middle School) into condominiums and this person is looking for others who would be interested in joining him, of course we have the $100,000 from the State of Ohio and Northwest State Community College that would allow them to use the facility, we have received interest from Head Start organization to allow them to expand further in our area, a gentleman in the community would love to hold agricultural classes in our facility, open gym for community members to use for recreation purposes, numerous businesses have reached out to us to hold meetings, conventions, and to rent out a room for their small business, brides wanting to hold their weddings and let’s not forget to mention organizations that have been there since the beginning of this project right in the community such as the Henry County Historical Society, City Band, Henry County Chorale, and Maumee Valley Civic Theater that would expand their current occupancies in our community and/or be housed in our facility. We have also received two pledges to date that are helping us move this project forward along with a few other pledges from other individuals and businesses. One of the donation pledges is for $200,000 from a prominent local business, and another $150,000 from a community member that sees our vision. We also do not want to forget to mention the hundreds of other donors who have donated throughout the project timeline whatever they could afford to help the CCHC project.

We have always had a sincere desire to work with the Napoleon Area School Board, City of Napoleon Council, Henry County Commissioners, our Ohio state representatives, Rob McColley and Jim Hoops, as well as our township leaders, village businesses and industries to repurpose the former Central School in Napoleon into a performing arts and recreation center. If the Cultural Center Board does not come up with the money to complete the project by June of 2022, the School Board can call in its marker and require us to demolish the building we all love. We are in continued discussions with all parties involved on how we can do what is right for our beloved community and all parties involved.

This amenity can provide unseen economic benefits to our community. Cultural Centers and the arts contribute more than $25 billion to Ohio’s economy annually and generate $1.06 billion in state and local tax revenues annually. This project could boost and revitalize the economy of Napoleon and Henry County as a whole.

We hope this gives everyone the much-needed update on our project and reminds them of the endless possibilities this building could do for our city and county. We also hope that this information will encourage our beloved community to visit our website to learn how they can contribute to this project, www.culturalcenterhc.org. And as they say, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, and the CCHC Board is committed to completing this project for the community!

 

With sincere thank you,

Jeffrey A. Tonjes
CCHC President

CCHC receive generous donation from friends and loved ones of Ken Neuenschwander

We would like to thank the family of Ken Neuenschwander. After the sudden unfortunate death of Ken, our founding President, the family helped raise over $15,000 to the project. Ken had a vision for the center to bring economic growth to Napoleon and a much needed Theater and recreation center to the residents of Henry County and the surrounding area. It is people like the Neuenschwander family that will make this project a reality.

To find out ways you can help the project please visit our website www.culturalcenterhc.org

Picture: Char Neuenswander, wife of Ken and Julie Busch CCHC Co-President.

Napoleon Civic Center Becomes the Cultural Center of Henry County

What seemed a dying dream has turned into the Little Engine that Could. “I think I can, I think I can.” “I know I can, I know I can.”

Assuming a co-presidency for the Napoleon Civic Center last Fall, Steve and Julie Busch (who stopped the wrecking ball that seemed destined for the Napoleon Armory) are driving the Little Engine that Could in an uphill climb. The goal is $1.3 million to repurpose part of Napoleon’s old Central School into a performing arts and athletic center serving Henry County and the outlying areas.

“It took a lot of work for Ken Neuenschwander and his team to get the Napoleon Civic Center organization off and running,” commented Steve recently. “With Ken’s failing health and other unforeseen circumstances, it looked like the project was stuck in its tracks.”

“But we have a new load of fuel for climbing that hill,” smiles Julie. “Part of it is the name change from Napoleon Civic Center to the Cultural Center of Henry County. This opens up the project to the entire county and even beyond.”

Board Treasurer Mark Schwiebert from Hamler, adds: “The ‘#HenryHas’ marketing theme presented to the Commissioners recently is a nice way of promoting all the plusses that Henry County can offer to new businesses. One amenity missing, though, was the project we are working on—a performing arts and athletic center. That will be the frosting on the cake.”

Recently, an anonymous donor came forward to pay the debt owed to the Napoleon Civic Center’s architect, G5. “We are certainly grateful for this person’s generosity, Schwiebert said. “And we have completed the paperwork process to be exempt from real estate taxes.”

“Roger Fisher [executive director] and Peg McDonald [marketing director] of the Defiance Cultural Center have provided a lot of direction that we plan to follow,” committee member Gary Westhoven commented. “Their lineup of performances hits all ages. That’s what we hope to provide for Henry County. The building has two large gymnasiums for athletic and fitness activities.” The auditorium can seat up to 700.

Public tours of the building are being planned for the near future.

To help the Little Engine that Could climb the hill, thank you for considering a gift for the Cultural Center of Henry County, P. O. Box 585, Napoleon, OH 43545.

An outstanding debt tied to the Napoleon Civic Center has been satisfied by a donation.

An outstanding debt tied to the Napoleon Civic Center has been satisfied by a donation.

Recent Article from the Northwest Signal

Napoleon Civic Center representative Patricia Bilow said the group recently received $100,000 from an anonymous donor and those funds were used to pay off the debt.

In September 2019, Rick Graber, doing business as G5 Architecture in Archbold, filed a lawsuit in Henry County Common Pleas Court Aug. 30 against the Napoleon Civic Center. The lawsuit was for a breach of contract as Graber alleged the civic center did not pay him $90,393.92 he was owed, plus interest, and the court ruled in his favor.

Late last year, a new executive leadership team has formed to renew efforts to transform the former Napoleon Middle School and Central Elementary School into a performing arts and athletic center. The new team includes Steve and Julie Busch as co-presidents, Judy Swerline as secretary and Mark Schwiebert as treasurer.

“Certainly, this debt hurt our fundraising effort,” Julie Busch said. “But we had enough community support to start digging our way out. And then we got this call. What an unexpected surprise.

“This donor is like an angel from Heaven,” she continued. “We are very grateful. The value of a performing arts center and the added benefit of the gymnasium for fitness and athletic activities will benefit many now and in generations to come.”

Bilow said the organization continues to work toward changing the name of the project, as well as opening the building up for tours and sending out a mass mailing to reach approximately 9,000 households in the area.

The Napoleon Civic Center Foundation formed in 2012 as Napoleon Area City Schools was planning the construction of a new pre-kindergarten through sixth grade building and a junior high addition built onto the renovated high school. Due to the new facilities, the former Central Elementary School and Napoleon Middle School building along West Main Street was no longer needed by the district. The foundation purchased the property for $1 in the summer of 2017 with the intention of renovating it and converting it into a civic center.

A fundraising goal of $1.3 million has been established for the project. Part of the purchase agreement with the district included a clause that, after five years, any portions of the building which do not have a certificate of occupancy would be subject to demolition. An anonymous donor pledged the $547,000 for an escrow account which has been set up to cover demolition expenses if necessary, but those funds cannot be used for other portions of the project. Those five years will be up on June 14, 2022, which a little more than one year to raise the funds and complete the work so they can receive an occupancy permit.

Napoleon Civic Center provided Napoleon City Council an update on the project.

Napoleon council rejects golf course trail fee

Recent Article from the Northwest Signal

Napoleon City Council Monday rejected a recommendation by the Napoleon Parks and Recreation Board concerning a trail fee for personal golf carts at the golf course.

Council unanimously voted down the ordinance 0-6, with Councilman Ross Durham absent.

The issue was brought up last month to the board for discussion by Napoleon Parks and Recreation Director Tony Cotter at the behest of a member of council.

The board proposed charging half of whatever the fee for a golf cart rental would be normally, depending on the category. For instance, it would be half of what the normal nine-hole rate would be.

Two weeks ago, council seemed to be in favor of the fee, though Councilwoman Lori Siclair did say she talked to a resident who didn’t like the idea of paying money to get their golf cart licensed and approved to be driven on city streets, then having to pay the trail fee.

Council even directed Law Director Billy Harmon to draft the legislation, which it unanimously rejected Monday night.

“I have had some time to think about this,” Siclair said. “I’ve had some conversation with a resident looking forward to getting his cart street legal … and was disappointed he would be charged on top of the green’s fee because as a taxpayer he is already contributing to the golf course.”

She added it seems like the city might be trying to fix a problem that doesn’t need fixed at this point.

“I would rather be in favor, rather than charging this year and re-evaluating next year, not charging this year and then re-evaluating next year and seeing how much traffic we get and if there is more maintenance needed then we can talk about charging at that point,” Siclair said.

Council President Joe Bialorucki agreed, and pointed out Cotter said less than a handful of times has the issue arisen at the course.

“It’s almost like we’re going to deter people (from using them),” Bialorucki said. “We passed that you can drive them on the street if you get them licensed and everything, but now we’re going to charge you if you bring them to the course.”

During the last council meeting, Cotter said he believed when the private carts were brought last year, they were charged the full cart rental rate.

City Manager Joel Mazur said most golf courses do not allow private golf carts to be brought onto their facilities, and those that do charge a trail fee.

Council also received an update from a representative from a group trying to raise money to renovate the John L. Johnson Auditorium.

The group has until June of 2022 to procure an occupancy permit or the building will have to be torn down. The goal is to raise about $1.1 million, but it also inherited about $100,000 in debt.

The representative said about $50,000 has been raised since the new group took over in November, and $47,000 of that went toward debt payment.

In other business, council:

Approved first reading of an ordinance to renew an agricultural district near County Road P.

Passed, under suspension of rules, a resolution to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant.

Approved second reading of an ordinance to annex three acres of land.

Passed, on final reading, an ordinance to change the pay range for the Napoleon Municipal Court bailiff.

Approved spending $35,000 for an electric cost of service study to be conducted.

Requested legislation be brought for a contract between the city and other entities for fire and emergency medical services.

Accepted various donations for the future pool site and approved allowing the police department to apply for various grants.

Recently NCC Treasurer Mark Schwiebert was interviewed by 103.1 WNDH ’s Dave Kleck on some of the updates with the Civic Center Project.

Recently NCC Treasurer Mark Schwiebert was interviewed by

103.1 WNDH ’s Dave Kleck on some of the updates with the Civic Center Project.
Listen to the interview here:
Don’t forget we need your help, donate today by visiting our website at Napoleonciviccenter.org