City looks into taking back building ownership

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(Posted Jan. 10, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Concerned about security, London city council adopted emergency legislation on Jan. 4 that could put the title to a former school building back in city hands.

According to council member Rex Castle, evidence exists that suggests trespassers have gained access to and started fires in the former London Middle School building on Walnut Street.

The city sold the building for $1 to Brightway Institute two years ago. The institute’s founders planned to renovate the building for use as a two-year junior college and workforce development school. According to Castle, renovations and classes have yet to take place in the building.

The property sale contract stipulated that Brightway obtain financing to complete renovations by June 1, 2016. At one point, the estimate for the boiler system alone was $70,000.

“Brightway Institute has not held up their part of the bargain,” Castle said. “In order for us to secure that building, we really need to be the owner of the building… We don’t feel like (Brightway) would be willing to take care of that or have the resources to take care of that.”

Council’s emergency legislation authorizes the city’s law director, Jennifer Hitt, to serve written notice of the legislation to Brightway’s owners.

The legislation also authorizes Hitt to file complaints, if necessary, for appropriation of the property in Madison County Court of Common Pleas. The process could include a jury inquiry and assessment of the city’s breach of contract claim. The court would decide whether the property title should revert to the city.

Bill Pizzino, a former athletics coach, is the CEO and founder of Brightway Institute. According to the organization’s website, Pizzino was inspired by students, including athletes, whose low grades and lack of readiness prevented them from entering four-year colleges. Brightway’s stated purpose is to offer a program “to help young adults seek a college education that would allow them to participate in athletics and at the same time equip them with the education and skills necessary to be successful in life.”

Brightway’s business plan includes two-year college and vocational certification components. Dr. Debra Tracy is Brightway’s president. Neither Pizzino or Tracy could be reached for comment.

The next London city properties meeting is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 24 in council chambers, 6 E. Second St.

Committee Appointments

In organizational business for the new year, council made appointments to various committees. Most remain the same as last year; the new appointments are as follows:

  • Emergency Medical Services Board–Bill Long;
  • Board of Public Utilities–Lora Long;
  • Public Service Committee–Henry Comer; and
  • Public Safety Committee–Richard Hays.

Council also approved Mayor Patrick Closser’s appointments to various city boards and commissions:

  • Metro Housing Authority–Brenda Russell;
  • Tree Commission–Lisa Jackman and Andrew Hitt;
  • Civil Service Commission–Nicholas Adkins;
  • Parks and Recreation Commission–Craig Jackson and Marilyn Hall;
  • Historic Review Board–Steve Lelonek and Robert Minner;
  • Board of Zoning Appeals–Zahid Siddiqi;
  • Planning Commission–Bryan Dhume and Dr. Mitchell Spahn; and
  • City Properties Committee–Chuck Duvall, Josh Peters and Rex Castle.

Closser said he has one more position to fill on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

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