School may serve students once again

EAST LIVERPOOL – The now-shuttered East Junior High School could find renewed life as a school again if the city’s plans come to fruition.

As part of the economic development plan being explored by Better City LLC, the East End school building could become the home of a New Castle School of Trades (NCST) project.

Better City is a Utah consultation firm recently hired to help revitalize the city.

In May, a letter was sent to the county’s Community Action Agency regarding the CAA possibly serving on behalf of the city as the applicant and grant administrator for a pre-development grant for the project.

The $25,000 grant from The Finance Fund, a non-profit Columbus organization, would be used to hire professional service firms for pre-development of the project. This would include conducting a feasibility study, securing financing and architectural and design services.

The city would provide a 20 percent match for the grant.

Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell said this week that the city is too small to apply for and administer some grants and so it asked the CAA to consider serving in that capacity.

The CAA would be responsible for ensuring all requirements and guidelines are followed by the city in regard to the grant.

The project would entail utilizing the 36,000-square-foot former school to provide vocational courses designed to help re-train the area workforce to gain employment in the emerging gas and oil industry.

In his letter to the CAA, Estell noted that the project would be beneficial to both the city and the agency since students enrolled in the New Castle School of Trades would not only be trained for potential employment but would possibly require the health services provided by CAA clinics and transportation provided by CARTS, operated by CAA.

In a letter this week to the Finance Fund, Estell expressed the city’s support for the pre-development grant for the NCST project, saying the project will “greatly assist” in expanding the revenue base of the grant applicant, the CAA, by providing increased ridership for CARTS and additional health and dental patients for its medical centers.

Additionally, Estell wrote, the grant would be instrumental as a catalyst for the first phase of a multi-phase downtown revitalization. Some of the ideas being discussed include a theater and parking structure, a hotel, charter school and field house.

Estell said in his letter, “The (city) is beginning to emerge from decades of disinvestment and business exodus,” explaining the declining financial climate that began with the closing of Crucible Steel and the loss of more than 6,000 area jobs.

“Currently, the city has been re-inventing itself as businesses look to relocate in the city due to our prime location in the Utica/Marcellus shale region. We hope to continue with this recovery and have made many positive strides that will position us to be competitive in the future,” he wrote.

Estell said this week that, in addition to waiting on word about the grant, the city is waiting on companies to provide floor plans so estimates can be secured from contractors to determine the cost of refurbishing downtown buildings to fit the companies’ needs.