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Questions surround board member’s lawsuit

June 13, 2010
Morning Journal News

A lawsuit filed by East Liverpool Board of Education member Richard Wolf is troubling for many reasons.

First, we wonder why, as a board member, Wolf must resort to legal action after he could not convince fellow board members to join him in his quest to save the East Elementary building from destruction. The board voted 4 to 1 last week, with only Wolf dissenting, to accept a bid from Pusateri Excavating to demolish the building for about $63,300.

The school board decided to act now to tear down the facility because the building is not needed due to declining enrollment and the Ohio School Facilities Commission will fund $55,000 of the demolition costs.

Wolf, however, feels the 40-year-old facility still has worth and should be saved from the wrecking ball. He also suggested the district could find other uses for it.

In Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, Wolf filed a motion seeking an emergency temporary restraining order to stay the "demolition and scrapping or destruction" of East Elementary. The same document seeks "permanent injunctive relief barring the demolition and scrapping or destruction" of the building.

At board meetings leading up to the demolition decision, other board members agreed the decision was difficult but there was no financially feasible way to keep the building.

"We just got out of bankruptcy," Larry Walton said. "I don't know how we could afford to keep it."

Treasurer Todd Puster stated, "Saving East Elementary from the wrecking ball might seem like a wonderful course of action. It would be an expensive decision, and one which would take time and resources away from the academic program.

"At this time, I know of no way for the school district to receive a commensurate return for that investment."

So why is saving this building so important to Wolf?

Could there be an ulterior motive? Especially when you consider another aspect of Wolf's public life - his decades-long opposition to the Heritage-WTI hazardous waste facility located not far from East Elementary.

Since the inception of the WTI plant in the early 1980s Wolf has been a member of a very vocal group of protesters who have even been arrested several times to prove their opposition. And what has been one of their central arguments against the plant? Its proximity to East Elementary School and the dangers they felt it posed to the schoolchildren.

Now Wolf doesn't want the school to be torn down. And, he has even suggested that the facility could be sold or other uses could be found for the building.

So why, if he still really feels WTI poses a danger, wouldn't he want to tear down East Elementary and prevent the potential hazard of anyone occupying that building? Is he no longer concerned about public safety? Or, as we suspect, will tearing down this building negate one of his longtime anti-WTI arguments?

Regardless, the lawsuit is frivolous and should be thrown out.



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