LaHarpe should get empty school

LaHarpe is being treated like a second-class citizen.
All of a sudden, it’s not good enough.
Not good enough to be a site for the county’s emergency services — though it sits dead center in the county. Not good enough to have a school, which was more a matter of efficiences of scale: It takes less money to operate fewer buildings.
In an effort to make lemonade out of a certainly sour situation, LaHarpe citizens asked for the abandoned school building for use as a community center. In a letter signed by LaHarpe Mayor Lloyd Turner, possible uses for the 30-year-old building were detailed, including use as a city hall, public library, recreation center, public meeting space, as a venue for a museum, arts and crafts activities and for public spaces that could be rented for private parties and other functions such as wedding and anniversary receptions and family reunions. These are all activities that either occur in dilapidated buildings or have no venue in LaHarpe.
Board members turned up their noses at LaHarpe’s plea. One board member reportedly re-torted, “What has La-Harpe ever done for us?”
For two years, 2007 and 2008, LaHarpe gave the school district two neighboring plots of land free of charge to be used by USD 257 building trade students to build houses. The city, also free of charge, hooked up utilities to the two houses. LaHarpe also is part of the district and sends children to its schools who might otherwise be attending elsewhere. That’s what LaHarpe has done and is doing for USD 257.
LaHarpe’s gift of the lots, with utilities included, was not only a supportive gesture to area students to show confidence in their expertise to build marketable homes but also was a savings to the district of thousands of dollars in land and labor.
Both houses sold, keeping the building trades program afloat, adding value to LaHarpe, perhaps adding students to USD 257’s enrollment.

STRAPPED FOR cash, the district wants to sell the LaHarpe building. But buyers aren’t biting.
The board should think again.
However much the district might get for the building would disappear in a single budget year. Giving it to LaHarpe would create goodwill that would last and last. As for bottomline benefits, helping LaHarpe make itself a better place to live could attract new residents with school-age children. A single family could bring in more additional money to USD 257 than the interest the district could hope to earn on whatever the building would bring in this deflated real estate market.
Besides, LaHarpe did demonstrate its community spirit, its generosity and its sense of a good investment when it donated those lots to the IHS building class. Now it’s the district’s turn.

— Susan Lynn