Open House at New Administration Building!

Local News

LaGrange shows off school building turned into municipal offices

Bruce Walton

By Bruce Walton | The Chronicle-Telegram Published on Feb. 25, 2019 | Updated 6:37 a.m.

LAGRANGE — The village administration held its first open house at the former high school that has been transformed into village offices.

Mayor Kim Strauss said the event was to show the residents the hard work they’ve put into the building, and the potential it has for later renovations. Although the building has been open to the public, this, he said, was the official debut.

“This time we opened everything and people can even wander and see what we’ve done, and I think we all enjoyed it,” he said.

LaGrange has been working on renovating the old high school and middle school, which are connected, for a couple years now — changing some of the flooring, layout and structure, while also keeping true to the original style and design of the school. The village closed its offices at 355 S. Center St. late last year to move into the newly renovated offices at the former school.

On the tour, residents could see those changes like in the old library from Keystone Middle School that became the new police station, which gives the department an estimated six times more office space than it had at the old location, according to village maintenance employee Mike Kroupa. The public entrance to the police station is the lobby of the former Keystone Middle School, which remains much the same as it did when the school was in operation. The woodshop room was converted into a garage that can hold six vehicles for the police department while the cafeteria was transformed into the new council chambers.

The residents also had a chance to see the school they or their children might have attended. Janet and Ronald Mertz both had attended the three-story section of the school — the oldest portion built in 1899 — that was demolished. But the couple had four children and six grandchildren graduate from the district that went through the school.

“I think it’s nice, they did a wonderful job,” Janet Mertz said.

“We’re really glad, too, that we can use the building,” Ronald Mertz said, “It would’ve been a shame to tear it down.”

Strauss said the village looked into building a new village facility, but the project would have cost about $2 million. The total cost of the renovations at this point is about $400,000, he said. There’s still more classrooms to be renovated, but what they have right now is enough for the administration offices.

In the future, Strauss said he hopes the city can renovate the old gymnasium and rent spaces in the rest of the building to help pay for the utility bills.

Contact Bruce Walton at (440) 329-7123 or bwalton@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.

Deal Struck with the Township Trustees: No Secession

LOCAL NEWS

LaGrange, LaGrange Township settle differences

LAGRANGE — After months of contention, LaGrange and LaGrange Township have reached an agreement that effectively puts any talks of the village seceding from the township to rest.

At a special meeting of the township trustees Thursday, the two sides reached an agreement to split the cost and maintenance of the LaGrange Cemetery and continue their partnership in operating LaGrange Community Park.

According to the agreement, the township will “assist the village and provide burial services necessary for the operation of the LaGrange Cemetery,” the “township is permitted to charge and retain burial fees” and the township will provide maintenance services for the cemetery while the village will reimburse the township for one-half the cost of the maintenance. The two sides also will continue the current arrangement of each providing a part-time employee to provide maintenance for the community park from April 1 to Nov. 1.

“They had made us an offer back in July that we split the cost of the cemetery maintenance and they would keep putting their money toward the park and a part-time person,” LaGrange Village Council President Gary Kincannon said. “We had never accepted it, but we accepted it at their meeting yesterday (Thursday). They approved it, and that’s our deal.”

The deal comes days before Tuesday’s general election in which the township has a fire and EMS 3.5-mill replacement levy that would provide funds to add additional services such as staffing an overnight shift for the fire department, pay for a new off-road response vehicle and upgrade the department’s aging ambulance.

One issue that was not addressed in the agreement was that of inside millage paid by village residents to the township. The village has claimed that its residents pay about $50,000 to $70,000 of inside millage each year to the township, but the residents don’t see any benefits from those taxes. Township leaders have disputed the figures of how much inside millage village residents pay.

LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss said he believed the inside millage isn’t such an issue anymore.

“I’m totally fine with it,” he said. “Yes, we do pay the inside millage. I think what we get for it is worth it. I also believe the compromise we came up with is a good compromise. I think it will benefit both of us.”

Kincannon said the village had to compromise to avoid entering into a contract with the township to provide fire and EMS service to village residents.

“Village Council didn’t want to have to go to a contract or fire district, so that’s why we gave up the whole inside millage idea. (The inside millage has) been my sore point all along,” Kincannon said. “I’ve talked to some old-timers that are older than me and have been involved before me with village government. They just said, ‘Hey, it was that way before, and just mow the freakin’ grass and settle the issue,’ a lot of people felt that if it came down to negotiating who was going to cut grass (at the cemetery), then just cut the grass.”

The two sides also hope to have open communication to help avoid similar issues in the future.

“We hope that ongoing talks and compromise can put to rest any remaining differences between the village and township,” a letter from the village to the trustees said. “We, also, hope that cooperation and communication can return to levels that were seen in the past.”

Strauss said the two sides will hold meetings multiple times a year.

“We’re going to make a few changes to try to meet every two to three months to discuss things that come along the way,” he said. “Two councilmen and one of the trustees could meet together and have a meeting to discuss any issues that might be out there.”

Trustee Gary Burnett said that he believes the contention of the past year could have been avoided if the two sides had communicated more.

“We should have been doing it before, to tell you the truth, but no one really thought of it,” he said.

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

Old Keystone High hosts Police from all over the Country!

COPS AND COURTS

Law enforcement undergoes active shooter training at old Keystone Middle School

LAGRANGE — Shots rang out in the back hallway of the old Keystone Middle School.

“Go! Go! Go!

“Entry made. All three units.

“One down, one down!”

Down the hall, a man raised his arms screaming, “I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it!”

Commands were yelled, instructing the man – later identified as the shooter – to get down and stay down.

Among the injuries included head wounds, a gunshot to the neck and at least one person was dead.

Those uninjured left the building surrounded by officers.

Police officers, firefighters and rescue crew personnel then surveyed the scene. Some helped carry the injured out. Others stood by, securing the room where the injured were gathered.

Nearly 20 minutes later, the same group of 24 police officers, 15 firefighter and rescue crew members and one dispatcher acted out another active-shooter scenario.

Monday through Friday, the LaGrange Police Department, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training and the FBI are hosting an Active Attack Integrated Response course at the former Keystone elementary and middle schools, said LaGrange Police Chief Chad Duensing.

“It’s become imperative to hold these types of training sessions for law enforcement officers and rescue personnel across the United States so they are prepared for active shooters in any situation — whether inside an office building, movie theater, school or church,” Duensing said.

LaGrange Police Lt. Wayne Ramsey was instrumental in organizing the only course of its kind in Lorain County. The course brought first responders from across Ohio, as well as Georgia and Louisiana.

“This is a combined training course,” Ramsey said. “The scenarios are based on active shooter incidents. The course provides a model framework for law enforcement, fire and EMS to integrate responses during an active attack/shooter event through the rescue task force concept.”

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University was created in 2002 by a partnership between Texas State University, San Marcos Police Department and Hays County Sheriff’s Office, to address the need for active shooter response training for first responders, said ALERRT instructor CJ Williams.

ALERRT was established after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. In 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 24 people in Columbine, Colo., before turning the weapons on themselves.

In 2012, the FBI partnered with ALERRT and adopted the ALERRT curriculum as the FBI’s standard for active shooter response training. FBI special agents now instruct ALERRT across the United States, helping prepare state and local officers while establishing local partnerships with law enforcement colleagues.

To date, 130,000 first responders have been trained nationwide using dynamic active shooter, force-on-force scenario-based training, Williams said.

Using more than $30 million in state and federal grant funding, after the one-week intense course, the attendees will be certified to bring the program to their own agencies, Williams said.

“It’s important to integrate fire and police who respond to threats of an active shooter,” Williams said.

The ultimate goals, Ramsey said, are to stop the killing and evacuate the building.

The average response time is three minutes for first responders to arrive at a scene, Williams said.

After witnessing a scenario Tuesday afternoon, LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss said the program a useful tool not only for the Keystone Schools, should an active shooting ever arise, but to prepare all first responders for what can be a traumatizing event.

“It scared me when the guns went off,” Strauss said. “But, obviously they have to hear that and be prepared for all of those situations. For myself, it makes me feel a lot better our officers are in the training. People do not want to get complacent and say, ‘Well, that was Columbine … that’s not here.’ You can never have enough training.”

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 440-329-7243 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com. Follow her @MLinebrinkCT on Twitter.

Please Review Republic Services Recycling Policy

REPUBLIC  SERVICES

Curbside Recycling Program

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Cartons / Aseptic containers: Milk.juice, etc.

Misc paper: Magazines, phone books, junk mail, cardboard.

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