PAXTON — Members of the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board said they are sticking to their plans to demolish the recently shuttered PBL Eastlawn School even as a small group of residents continues to try to persuade the board to reverse course.
The board voted unanimously during its meeting last Wednesday night to approve a contract with local auctioneer Brad Strebeck for an auction to be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at the school at 341 E. Center St. in Paxton. Items from the school will be auctioned off, as well as materials from Clara Peterson Elementary School.
Meanwhile, Paxton residents Jolen Anya Minetz and Renea Walters addressed the board regarding the future of the 94-year-old building, which was built as Paxton Community High School in 1925 and has also been used as a junior high school.
Walters told the board about her proposed ideas for the building’s reuse, including turning it into a multipurpose facility featuring a hotel and local businesses.
“This would be able to draw traffic off of I-57 and into our downtown business district,” Walters said. “We do not want to lose this opportunity to reinvigorate this historic building.”
Walters said she had developed a five- and 10-year plan for renovating the building and would seek funding from private individuals and businesses as well as crowdfunding campaigns online.
“Our business would bring economic development through tourism, would create jobs and add more cultural development and opportunities to our citizens,” Walters said.
Walters urged the board to vote “no” on the auction contract, saying she was working every day on the ability to repurpose the building.
Walters said she believed the school district’s $30 million referendum before voters in November 2016 did not allow people to separate issues such as the demolition of Eastlawn and the renovation and expansion of Clara Peterson Elementary School.
Minetz told the board that her online petition to save the building had 494 signatures and also brought up that fact that the school building is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
No board members responded to Minetz and Walters’ comments. They also did not respond to comments by Champaign resident David Monk, who proposed a railroad trail visitor center be put in the old school building.
After the meeting, the board’s president, Dawn Bachtold, said the board will not reverse its decision to tear down Eastlawn this fall.
“At this time, the board has indicated our intent to go forward with the decision and proposal to demolish Eastlawn,” Bachtold said.
Minetz said she was disappointed the board has not responded directly to her or anyone else who has made comments about saving the building.