COST AND LACK OF ACTION
While the proposed and future uses of the building were argued in court, the lack of development of the property is a concern and cost.
Lewis said since the township was deeded the property, it has been incurring annual costs of $20,000 per year to board up the building.
“It was too expensive; they couldn’t maintain it any longer,” he said.
Pam Sandefur said she has heard that argument but believes there are ulterior motives, including protecting the investment already made to renovate the property.
“All we hear is the town’s broke and we’ve got to get more grants,” she said. “And then we’re being told to be quiet because ... these people have a lot of money,” she said of those donating to Jacob’s Well. “And the state is really looking at this little community right now because the [east-end] bridge is coming through.
“There’s still nothing in there. They have not helped one person.”
With no development at the site, Lewis said the building was deteriorating.
“The building continued to fall into disrepair,” he said. “No one else has an interest in this property other than the town and the grantor.”
He added because the building wasn’t being used, it was subject to vandalism, criminal activity and animals had begun living inside.
Again, the local residents disagreed.
“The school’s not in disrepair,” said Utica resident Jacky Snelling.
He added the community was using the building as it had been for years, as a shelter during floods, a food pantry and even for birthday parties.
“It had something going all along,” said resident and former town council member Ann Graham.
But now that Jacob’s Well has possession of the property, the residents said the public can no longer access the former schoolhouse. The residents added that there had been attempts to develop the site in the past, but they were blocked as a result of the deed restrictions on the property.