The Defiance City Board of Education is seeking answers on the status of the deed of the former Defiance High School (1918 building) after discussion at its regular meeting Monday evening.
In addition, the board discussed vaccinations for staff, and commended the maintenance/custodial crew for extra work put in due to a snowy winter (see related story, page A2).
Board member Cathy Davis began a conversation about the 1918 building, explaining it was May 8, 2019, when the board approved an agreement with the city of Defiance, the Defiance Area Foundation (DAF) and the Justin F. Coressel Foundation to sell the building to the city.
At that time, the DAF and Coressel Foundation pledged $300,000 to be used to demolish the building if a new suitor could not be found to repurpose it, or to be used if one is found to aide in its new use. Dan Michel of the DAF proposed to keep those funds in reserve for at least five years if the city takes title of the property, or two years if the school district continues to own it.
Due to a deed issue in which part of the property would revert to the Latty family if it is not being used for educational purposes, the city has not been able to get a clear deed, even with a lease agreement in place with the school board to do so.
The property is still in possession of the district, with the two-year deadline looming.
“That two-year date is quickly coming upon us and still we have nothing done in actually transferring the property to the city,” said Davis. “If the city doesn’t take possession of the building by May 8, the agreement calls for that building to be demoed (demolished).
“I am bringing this up because I think it’s only fair to the SOS (Save Our School) group, that we all got to know so well, to understand where things stand,” continued Davis. “I don’t want it to come to May 8 and say, ‘Here we go again.’”
Said superintendent Bob Morton: “I think there is a misconception that it (the transfer of the deed) has taken place already.”
Board member Garry Rodenberger asked about the deed issue, with Morton explaining after the school board agreed to a lease agreement with the city in which the district keeps the part of the property in question for educational purposes, the city would then work out an agreement with the Latty family to clear the deed.
“The city is still attempting to work out a full agreement with the Latty family to get the deed cleared,” said Morton. “I don’t know where they are with that, but I will make a phone call to the law director (Sean O’Donnell) in the morning to see where we stand, and what kind of a timeline we can put together on this.”
Said Davis: “We’re concerned because we’ve done our part, we’ve cooperated, we’ve negotiated, we’ve agreed and we’ve signed. I don’t want the public to think we have not done our share of work.”
Rodenberger reiterated a lot of effort was put into keeping the building in downtown Defiance, especially the work of the SOS group. He asked again what was holding up the transfer of the deed, with Morton explaining that not all individuals in the Latty family who have a claim on the property have been located.
“The city took it upon themselves to handle that, but we’re looking at a two-year time frame that is rapidly approaching, hopefully that will lead to some movement,” said Morton. “I have confidence it will get resolved, but I wouldn’t be surprised if an adjustment or amendment to change the agreement date is proposed.
“That might just prolong the process even more,” added Morton.
Said Davis: “That two-year clock is ticking, so I want to know, what’s being done? Is the city or are the foundations going to take possession of the property?”
“That’s a pretty simple question for me to ask (the city law director),” said Morton.