Remove Health, Safety Hazard

For many years, the old Clay School building in East Wheeling has sat vacant, as Darryl Baynes pursued his dream of converting it into a science education and recreation center for young people. Unfortunately, despite the appeal of Baynes’ idea and his drive in attempting to make it a reality, the plan has not come to fruition.

After Baynes bought the structure in 2003, for $65,000, he devoted an enormous amount of energy – and about $150,000 – to renovating it. But without sponsors for the work, he has been forced to watch as the building deteriorated.

Now Baynes is offering the old school for sale, at an asking price of $400,000. City officials say that even if someone buys it, it will require hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair and renovation work to get it to the point it complies with city building codes.

“I wish him luck,” Mayor Andy McKenzie said of Baynes this week. But he added, “He has to do something with the building” because of its condition.

There has been talk of the city purchasing the building – but, with all due respect to Baynes, it is not municipal government’s function to bail out entrepreneurs such as he. The only scenario under which such a transaction should take place would be as part of a plan for the city to acquire, then demolish the structure. Paying Baynes’ asking price or anything approaching it would not be acceptable.

Baynes took a risk in purchasing the old school. Unfortunately, the idea did not pan out. Now, he bears responsibility for the building – and city officials have a duty to ensure it is not allowed to remain in place while it deteriorates even more.

The old Clay School has become a safety and health hazard. Unless someone comes up with a realistic alternative – soon – city officials’ goal should be to have it demolished as quickly as possible.