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Demolition Is Long Overdue

An old school building in Belmont has been a challenge for local officials for years. It is time for state officials to cure the headache.

When village officials took over the 1915-vintage school building several years ago, they had high hopes it could continue to serve the public. But the years and neglect had taken their toll. The structure was beyond saving, it was concluded.

Belmont residents seemed to agree during a series of public meetings about the building. As many as 95% at one gathering agreed the old school should be demolished.

That was easier agreed upon than done, as Belmont officials learned. The structure is chock-full of asbestos, requiring special treatment during any demolition process. At one point, village officials were told it would cost nearly $200,000 to remove the eyesore.

That was and is beyond the village’s resources.

Then, the Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp. — often referred to as the Land Bank — came up with an innovative approach. Officials of that agency found nearly $90,000 that could be used to help pay for demolition, but other obstacles arose.

During a recent Belmont Village Council meeting, an update on the project was provided by village Solicitor T.J. Schultz. He explained that the Land Bank is planning to apply for a state Environmental Protection Agency grant to help fund removal of the building. Plans are for the application to be submitted next month.

Without state assistance, it is difficult — if not impossible — to see how demolition of the old school can proceed. EPA officials should approve state funding for the project. It is a classic case of an environmental concern local officials and residents know needs to be addressed, but for which they lack the resources. State officials should put the grant application on the fast track for approval.

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