Friday, August 30, 2013

Discussion continues on safety and zoning issues for old Orofino School

The City Council Chambers were filled to capacity with concerned community members, parents and educators for the Orofino Building and Fire Committee meeting held Aug. 26.

A hearty discussion ensued over the newly proposed zoning of the grounds and the extensive safety requirements needed to bring the old Junior High School building up to code. City Council initiated rezoning the property as a result of a change of ownership, ie from the school district to Paul and Lee Pippenger, from a public entity to a private entity for public use.

Council Members Banks and Dunaway along with Administrator Laam, Building Official Perry, Public Works Supervisor Barton and Fire Chief Lee were present. Don Strong, Deputy Fire Official from Boise was also invited to attend.

The school district had received a letter stating that they could not use the gymnasium at the old school building unless a sprinkler system was installed. They were also informed that in order to utilize the gymnasium, the remaining part of the building was to remain empty.

Superintendent Bob Vian asked the members of city council what had changed in the past month to warrant the new requirements.

Perry stated that the council just learned of a change in ownership and a change in the use of the building. It was no longer considered to be for educational purposes. Members of city council had seen clothes being distributed and other events taking place in the old school building. The council assumed that now that the school building was in the hands of the private sector, it was being used for purposes other than education.

More than a few objected saying nothing had changed; the school curriculum requires physical education, and encourages participation in sports. Much is learned through the participation of sports, and in a community where little else is offered for kids, we are in desperate need of a community center.

Newly appointed Commissioner for Clearwater County John Smith stood up and reminded all that the codes were there for a reason, meant to keep people safe. He did not want to see the building turned back into a school, but he would like to see it continue to serve the community as a Community Center.

Smith presently serves the City of Lewiston as building Official and is quite knowledgeable in the use of codes. He volunteered to help explore the options with the help of a design professional and Orofino’s Building Official Perry, which might help bring the plans together.

For now, the city will permit the school district to utilize the gym and a safety inspection is mandated to take place in the near future for the remainder of the building, as it has not been done for a couple years. Nothing else has been decided. The discussion rests until more information can be gathered.

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