HJ - Former First Methodist Education Building

The Page County Board of Supervisors offered $92,500 to purchase the education building of the former First United Methodist Church in Clarinda during a meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the Page County Courthouse in Clarinda. The building is owned by Joe and Emily Akers of Clarinda. (Herald-Journal photo)

The more that is learned will eventually mean the more that is possible between the Page County Board of Supervisors and the Clarinda Community Preschool.

Supervisors met with representatives from the preschool Tuesday, Oct. 1, about the future of the school as the county is waiting to close on the purchase of what is known as the education building of the former First United Methodist Church in Clarinda. The preschool is using the building.

“There is only so much availability for us,” said Lauren McNess, from the school. “A smaller building will mean a lower ratio which means fewer kids in preschool.”

Since the county’s offer on the two-story building in late August, it has met with architecture engineers and preschool staff about the future of the building and the preschool. The county is considering using the building to house the public health department and 911 dispatch. But the county doesn’t want to force the preschool out without a plan.

“We want to find the least disruptive way,” said Supervisor Chuck Morris. “HGM’s findings will get us more.”

Supervisors and other county officials toured Sept. 24 the building with representatives from HGM Associates, an engineering firm in Omaha, Nebraska.

Supervisors asked HGM to look at the 55-year-old building to determine what kind of remodeling will be needed to adequately hold the departments and meet all codes and regulations.

Clarinda Community Preschool is renting a portion of the building and school officials have told the county they do not want to move during the school year. County officials are considering relocating the preschool to the second story, provided all codes are met, to start remodeling of the first floor. HGM said the second story could work for the preschool.

But even that strategy has some concerns. Although a formal report from HGM has not been finalized, it’s likely the hallway floors have asbestos; a product used in construction materials but can cause severe health hazards if disturbed. There are asbestos removal procedures. There was not a consensus of having the preschool in operation during asbestos removal.

“We do not want 35 families mad for evicting you,” Morris told McNees.

McNees said she does not know of another facility in Clarinda that would meet the preschool’s building requirements.

Morris asked Darin Sunderman, a county employee who serves on the Clarinda school district board and was at the meeting, about moving the preschool into McKinley. McKinley is the name of the building that houses the school district offices and the alternative school.

Sunderman said the building could work for the preschool but did not want to speak for the entire school board or district. Morris said he has had preliminary discussions with Clarinda interim superintendent Chris Bergman about the issue.

It’s likely some of the church building’s doors and bathrooms will have to be remodeled by the county to comply with those who have disabilities. An elevator, or some type of chair lift, will also be considered. Moderate roof repairs are also likely for the building.

Adding more electrical power to the building is also likely for 911 dispatch equipment. The county’s 911 operation is in the basement of the Clarinda Police Department.

Supervisors also asked HGM for its opinion on using an empty lot, besides the church education building that was part of the transaction, as a possible site for a new county jail. The church was on the site but was demolished last year.

No action was taken.

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