By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
According to Grove City Deputy City Administrator William Vedra, a colony of bats have caused extensive damage to the historic barn at Gantz Park.
“It could be a total loss,” said Vedra, who admitted that complete demolition of the barn is a possibility.
Earlier this summer, a facility maintenance employee for the city found bat droppings inside the structure, where the city housed its popular RecSchool program for pre-school aged children. City officials then contacted an exterminator, who found evidence of bat bugs inside the barn. A consultant also observed the barn in the evening and confirmed that a colony of bats were living inside the structure.
“There were several hundred bats in there,” said Vedra.
The city hired a company to remove the roof to let the bats fly out. It has since been covered with tarp to prevent the bats from gaining reentry, though Vedra said a few are still finding their way inside.
As most of the bats have left the building, city officials had the opportunity to assess the damage.
“We’re going to need a complete rehab of the building,” said Vedra.
The deputy city administrator said bat waste has gone through the dry wall, rotted the wood, damaged ceiling tiles, and been found in the duct work. Vedra said the odor inside the barn is “indescribable.”
According to Vedra, an insurance adjuster has examined the structure to look at the loss but so far, no official cost estimate has been revealed.
“We can’t give a quote yet, but I’m guessing it will be in the mid six figures,” said Vedra. “We are hoping to save the structure. It’s a 100-year-old barn.”
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, all species of bat in the state are protected. They eat insects and play an important role in the ecosystem. Bats are usually able to exist near human habitats without people knowing. However, ODNR says that bats should be removed from homes and structures where there is human activity due to potential health concerns for humans.
RecSchool, a nature-based preschool program operated by the city’s parks and recreation department, was cancelled when city officials learned about the bat colony. RecSchool operates from September through May and can accommodate more than 100 children.
According to Vedra, the city has not yet been able to find another facility to house the preschool, but city staff is working on a program. He said they are looking at offering day trips to Scioto Grove Metro Park, located in Grove City, or having mobile classes with different themes. Vedra said it could include shorter duration classes offered in two-to-four-week increments.
“It’s not fully developed yet, but we are working on it,” said Vedra. “Right now, there are too many unanswered questions.”
The city notified families impacted by the RecSchool closure and provided a list of 13 other preschools in the area.