A volunteer group seeking to turn Libertyville's long-shuttered Brainerd school campus into a community center should get more time to raise money for the project, the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 board decided Monday.
After a short presentation and plea from supporters of the project, the school board voted 6-0 to extend the deadline for a $250,000 initial lease payment originally due this December until 2014. The Libertyville village board must approve the deal, too, because the village is leasing the site from the school district and letting the community group sublease it.
Libertyville resident Mike Kolman, a volunteer for the project, said turning the old classroom building and gymnasium on the Brainerd campus into a community center would be "the ultimate form of recycling."
The project is "a model of sustainability, one that will continue to serve the district and its residents for decades to come," Kolman said. Located on Route 176 at Brainerd Avenue, the campus once was the home of Libertyville High School.
The current high school is a short walk west of the Brainerd campus. Last decade, community volunteers proposed converting the buildings into a community center that could be used by arts groups or have other uses. A 50-year lease deal struck between the village and the school board in 2006 gave the group five years to come up with a $250,000 lease payment.
The organization's fundraising efforts have lagged, however. Kolman and Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler blamed the economy for their troubles. Control of the site will revert to the school board if the community group can't come up with the needed money.
District 128 officials have publicly supported the group's efforts, but they've also investigated the potential costs of knocking down the buildings. After Kolman, Weppler and community group President Jim Moran spoke to the board, District 128 board President Pat Groody thanked them for their hard work.
"It's a wonderful thing you're doing for the community," Groody said.