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Council concerned over shutdown

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Fire code not violated on campus in most cases
Most of the Antioch College campus is not in violation of the Ohio fire code, according to the Miami Township fire chief and an Antioch University administrator this week.

“The water sprinklers had never been turned off,” Antioch University Vice President for Student Services Milt Thompson said on Monday.

Last week Thompson told the News and Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman that all water to the unused buildings had been turned off and that furniture remained inside. He also stated that university administrators did not know that this was a fire code violation, and that they sought to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

On July 3, Thompson contacted Altman and stated that he had been mistaken in assuming that all water to the buildings had been turned off, Altman said on Monday. According to Altman, Thompson stated that when he instructed maintenance employees to shut off the water, he had assumed that the shutoff included the sprinkler systems. However, he later discovered this was not the case because the sprinklers operate on a separate system. Altman stated that he toured the unused buildings and verified that the sprinkler systems remained on.

There is one exception, however, according to Altman, which is West Hall, a dormitory that has been closed several years. Apparently the sprinkler system was shut off when the dorm was closed with furniture left inside, Altman said, stating that he will work with the university to rectify the problem.

At Village Council’s July 7 meeting, Council members and villagers expressed concerns regarding the recent shutdown of the Antioch College campus and the lack of communication with university officials.

“I’m frustrated with the university administration,” said Council member Karen Wintrow. “We need to communicate to understand what’s happening.”

Council requested that Interim Village Manager John Weithofer arrange a meeting with Antioch University administrators, along with Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman, Police Chief John Grote and Al Kuzma of the Greene County Building Inspection office.

Most campus buildings were shut down at the end of June, with the exceptions of Main Building, the Kettering building, the theater and the library. Antioch University Chief Financial Officer Tom Faecke has stated that heat and air conditioning have been shut off in unused buildings, and will remain off.

The Village’s concerns with the shutdown include the adequacy of campus maintenance, safety, compliance with building and fire codes, and the effects of cutting off heat and air conditioning on the buildings, Weithofer said.

According to Grote at the meeting, he met last Thursday with Antioch University Vice President for Student Services Milt Thompson to discuss the shutdown. The university is installing a new surveillance system which can be accessed by the local police, and has contracted for limited security with a private security firm, according to Grote. Police have increased their patrols on campus, he said, and the university stated that its remaining maintenance employees will physically check on buildings during the work week.

Villager Brian Springer asked if the university’s measures are adequate, given that the surveillance cameras, if they are not closely monitored, would only show events after they happened. In response, Grote stated, “It’s what we have. I’m glad at least something is going on.” However, he said later, “The best security is having students on campus, all those eyes. We can’t keep up with 27 buildings.”

The campus sprinkler system is currently operable, but will not function in cold weather if there is no heat, former Antioch College professor Peter Townsend said.

About 15 villagers attended the meeting to express their concerns about the shutdown. Regarding the recent talks between university trustees and representatives of the college alumni board with the intention of establishing an independent college, villager Ken Huber stated, “It would be a disaster if the talks were successful but the buildings had deteriorated substantially.”

Council should consider using eminent domain to claim the campus and save it from deterioration, said Tony Dallas, who presented Council with a petition from villagers urging Council to do so.

“We are concerned that Antioch University does not have the desire, expertise or financial resources to act as a responsible corporate citizen in the Village of Yellow Springs,” the petition states.

According to the petition, under Ohio law a property can be taken through eminent domain if a situation “substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the political subdivision,” “constitutes an economic or social liability,” “retards the provision of housing accommodations,” or “is a menance to the public health, safety, morals or welfare” of a community.

According to Dallas, if citizens of a community agree that “any one of these is relevant, the groundwork for discussing eminent domain is in place.” The petition was signed by 31 persons, and the signatures were gathered in an hour, Dallas said.

Contact: dchiddister@ysnews.com

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