Mantua –  It has now been officially determined that Mantua Center School is indeed structurally safe and basically built like a fortress, putting to rest a topic that has been the focus of debate in recent years.  Mantua Township trustees and the Mantua Restoration Society (MaRSI) are working hard to begin restoring the historic building.     “We now have an occupancy permit effective August 14th for the whole building”, said Trustee Vic Grimm. This is an enormous step forward.  It clears a major hurdle and opens the way to begin developing the master plan (what needs to be done so that the building will be renovated in as logical and timely a manner as possible).

hal-stamm-mantua-center-schoolThe findings were made public at a recent joint committee meeting to report on progress made so far.  This was the third of such meetings conducted since October 2014. The committees are: 1) the Building Assessment Committee, 2) Building Utilization Committee, 3) The Grant and Funding Committee, 4) The Volunteers Committee.  This committee system was initially proposed by Todd Peetz, Director of Portage County Regional Planning in an effort to move forward and utilize the building.  Hal Stamm (pictured), a licensed civil engineer and member of the Building Assessment Committee, led the way in the structural analysis of the building.  Through analysis of several structural elements, Stamm found that building is remarkably stable.  This finding allows the project to move forward.

Many township people and township trustee Grimm have been involved with saving and restoring the building.  The effort has been led by the Mantua Restoration Society (MaRSI) which consists of such committed local people as Lynn Harvey, Terri Vechery, Linda Ehlert, Ellen Monroe, Susan Buckles, Dave Pollard, Cal Brant, and many, many others including past township trustees the likes of Mark Hall and Skip Schweitzer.   Carole Pollard is the current MaRSI leader and traditionally has been one of the driving forces in the effort to save the building as well as other civic efforts such as renovation of the Township Hall.

Township Trustee Vic Grimm is elated. He engineered purchasing the building 11 years ago with the foresight to turn it into a civic center for the township.  Terrie Nielsen, chairman of the Grant Committee, has led the way by applying for a CDBG grant (Community Development Block Grant).  “Originally we had projected it was going to cost about $110,000 to put in an elevator.  The actual refined cost is about $130,000.  The commissioners agreed to award us $60,000 and then they awarded us an additional $15,000.

The Mantua Restoration Society and Township Trustees have each donated $10,000.  MaRSI then agreed to pay an additional $10,000 if the Township residents can raise $2300 as their share of the local Challenge Grant. What is a Challenge Grant, you ask?  This Challenge Grant is courtesy of a local anonymous donor who has made a $10,000 grant available intended to encourage small donors to come forward.  This Challenge Grant will match all donations from $1 to $50 per person.  Recently the donor has removed the cap until the $10,000 is met. “It is a very achievable goal”, Nielsen said.  “We have talked to State Senator Ecklund and are hoping for help with the rest of the money.” On August 14th Carole Pollard representing MaRSI, Linda Ehlert, representing the Historical Society, Sue Skrovan, representing the Grants and Funding committee, and Trustee Vic Grimm met with Senator Ecklund, specifically not asking for “Pie in the Sky” but asking for help in making up the difference in what we have and what we need. These four people represent the various entities working hard to procure funding for the building.  Ecklund was very positive, pointing out that there is also additional funding to be tapped, and added, “Don’t be afraid to ask for pie in the sky!”

As in the past two community meetings, emotions ran high Tuesday evening.  There is a strong contingent of local people who have great feeling for this building, their children having attended school there, they having gone there themselves, some even having graduated from it in the 1940s.  At one point in the presentation, when Nielsen was discussing the need for local donations, a resident spoke out, saying, “Why don’t we pass the hat tonight?”  Whereupon a MaRSI member immediately seized the moment and began doing just that.  $177 was collected from the 39 people present at the meeting. This represents $354 when it is matched by the Challenge Grant.

As with all big decisions, there is controversy.  Some feel that the school would be an additional tax burden and it is respectfully acknowledged that this could be so. With proper management, though, this could be minimized. The school could actually and easily become self-sustaining.   MaRSI leader Pollard points out that by balancing non-paying uses with rentals the building can pay a significant share of its expenses.  The annex where the committees met on August 25 is fully ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible and already is being frequently rented. The basement rooms have been partially readied for potential use as a preschool.  Another potential use is as a break room for the Sheriff’s Department.  All of this can be accomplished within a relatively short time.

Donations may be made to:
Mantua Restoration Society Inc.
P.O. Box 665
Mantua, Ohio 44255

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Skip Schweitzer, of Mantua, can be described from early on in life as an avid outdoorsman and old car restorer and aficionado. He comes from a long line of great lakes fishermen and hunters. He is a taxidermist and a retired psychologist. His grandfather Charles, a machinist and fisherman who fed his family with fish during the Great Depression, was one of the original auto restorers at the Thompson Auto Museum, now the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum. Skip learned to hunt, fish and restore cars from his father Roy and learned the value and appreciation of antique automobiles from his grandfather. Skip has, over the years, restored upwards of 25 automobiles including many Fords, Studebakers, Buicks, Jeeps and VWs. Skip has written extensively on automobiles and outdoors for several newspapers, magazines and auto publications this past 20 years. His current antique automobiles include a 1930 Ford Model “A”, and a 1970 Volkswagen Cabriolet. Skip’s most frequent bylines are, Outdoors With Skip, and The Old Road.