Letter to the Editor

Give project more time

How can we work together as school leaders, government officials, and the Cultural Center of Henry County to bring economic growth and enhance our quality of life?  What can we do together with the CCHC property that will positively impact our residents?

The three sections of this building combine to make the most cost-effective use of this property and improve the lives of area residents.  The county has cited a need for housing, schools want to grow, businesses need to attract workers and customers.  In one project, the CCHC can become a hub of economic development and community activity.

The Cultural Center will provide facilities for athletics and fitness.  The two gyms, Loose Field, and several classrooms can be used for club sports, dance, exercise, or martial arts.  There is ample green space on Main Street for walking and relaxing.

The John L. Johnson Auditorium with the music addition offers an excellent facility for music and drama rehearsals and performances with comfortable audience seating. In the event of a local disaster, the building can be used as a shelter and a large-scale staging area.

The West Wing provides space for offices, meetings, small businesses, and classes.  A group of private investors has raised significant assets to renovate the East Wing into unique housing units.

It takes time to develop and fund this undertaking.  None of us foresaw a pandemic.  Most schools, businesses, individuals, and governments received assistance financially or through the relaxation of regulations from the state and federal government.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we need time to complete our work.   We need your support.  The pre-Covid deadline imposed upon us by the NACS Administration was June 14, 2022.  We ask Dr. Erik Belcher and the NACS School Board for an extension of the agreement between NACS and the CCHC for two years to pursue additional grants, donations and naming rights, establish an operating endowment fund, and begin renovations.  Contact the NACS board and Dr. Belcher and tell them you support the project and an extension to complete it.

You can discuss new developments on this project.  Our board meeting is Tuesday, June 21, at 5:30 at the Emporium.  Create a buzz by talking about CCHC.  Take a tour.  Post on social media.  Make a donation.  Join CCHC.   Preserve a landmark and provide a center to learn, grow, perform, celebrate, play, socialize, and create.    Together, we can!

Shellee Murcko


*Printed in The Crescent News, Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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.