PAXTON — The Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district plans to proceed with the demolition of the historic PBL Eastlawn School building despite members of the public and a nonprofit organization asking for the project to be delayed or canceled entirely.
PBL Superintendent Cliff McClure released a statement Monday stating that the school board “plans to continue to move forward” with tearing down the 94-year-old building and “act on the voters’ approval” to do so.
Last week, members of the school board received a letter from Landmarks Illinois, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the preservation of historic buildings in Illinois, and heard from Paxton resident Jolen Anya Minetz about their desire to see the old school building saved and possibly sold and repurposed, despite the district already having entered into a $1.15 million contract for its demolition.
In March, the school board approved a $1.15 million bid from Lee Farms Excavating of Paxton and General Waste Services of Collinsville to remove asbestos from the school and tear it down starting Aug. 26.
The work will be funded through a $30 million referendum that appeared on the November 2016 election ballot. The referendum also is funding the construction of a 63,400-square-foot, two-story addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School’s east side — a building that is expected to be completed this summer and become the new home of PBL Eastlawn School’s students starting this September.
The demolition contract — which was provided by McClure to the Ford County Record on Monday — says the school district has the authority to suspend or terminate the contract “without cause.”
If the contract were to be suspended by the district without cause, however, “the contract sum (owed to the contractors) and contract time (for completion of the work) shall be adjusted for increases in the cost and time caused by suspension, delay or interruption (of the work).”
And if the contract were to be terminated by the district without cause, the district “shall pay the contractor for work properly executed (and) costs incurred by reason of the termination, including costs attributable to termination of subcontracts.”
The district would also be responsible for paying a termination fee if one were stated in the contract; however, there was none listed.
In his statement, McClure noted that in the months leading up to the referendum, the school board and several committees “worked many, many hours to define the scope” of the projects that would be funded by the referendum. They narrowed down the scope of the work using input from community members who attended a series of community engagement sessions and participated in surveys.
“The majority direction of those community members, board members and everyone who participated in these pre-referendum meetings was that Eastlawn Elementary should be demolished as part of the district’s building plan because of the condition of the building,” McClure said. “The majority of those who voted in the November 2016 election where the building referendum was approved also agreed that demolition of Eastlawn Elementary was appropriate.
“Since the passage of the November 2016 building referendum until the May 2019 board meeting, at no time has anyone addressed or approached the board about repurposing Eastlawn Elementary.”
McClure’s statement added that the school board “approved a bid for environmental and demolition work at the March 13, 2019, meeting and signed a contract on May 1, 2019. The demolition of Eastlawn Elementary was included in the referendum question which passed in November 2016, and the board plans to continue to move forward to demolish Eastlawn Elementary and act on the voters’ approval.”
Demolition of Eastlawn is scheduled to begin Aug. 26. The old school building served as Paxton High School from 1925 to 1965 and then as a junior high school until 2005, when it became PBL Eastlawn School, an elementary school housing third- through fifth-graders.