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 Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.

Keystone Saved over $800,000 by Selling the Old High School to the Village!

Demolition costs were $173,000, not $373,000 according to Superintendent White.  The school was given $1 million by the state to demolish the entire structure.


Keystone Schools hopes to settle bill dispute with LaGrange

LAGRANGE — Keystone Schools Superintendent Dan White said Friday he hopes to continue an open discussion with village officials about sharing utility costs for a gym in the former Keystone school buildings now serving as village offices.

The use of the gym became the subject of controversy after village officials said Keystone Schools was not paying its fair share of the cost to keep the gym lit and heated. The gym use by school athletes had been agreed upon in the purchase contract between the village and the school district when the village bought the former buildings, and a formula for use fees was spelled out in the contract.

White, whose first day as superintendent was Aug. 1, said he knew about the controversy from his first day on the job. Two days later, on Aug. 3, he said “student-athletes and coaches were unable to access the building” and found the gymnasium locked.

White said the district had requested invoices for its share of the utility bills since September, but those were not delivered until November. Those were the first bills the district received, he said, and such a bill is required for the district to be legally able to cut a check to the village.

Village officials said Thursday they received “a small check” for utilities from the district in November, though White disputed that the amount was “small.”

The bill also was for more than the district thought it owed based on the contract, White said.

The district sold the former Liberty Elementary School and the former Keystone Middle School, football field and bus garage. The district spent $373,000 to demolish the Liberty building — far less than the $1 million it would have cost to demolish all of the buildings, White said.

The purchase gave the village a new, more expansive home for its offices and police department.

“We didn’t have to spend all our money to demolish it,” White said Friday. “But then we had the additional need of gym space and the village said, ‘You can have it, just share in the utility costs,’ so we’re like ‘Great.’”

In the original Real Estate Transfer Agreement, signed Jan. 28, 2016, and provided Friday to The Chronicle-Telegram, the village agreed to purchase the former school buildings, parking areas and the Keystone football stadium and bus garage “as-is” for $1.

For 20 years after transfer, the agreement states, the district rights “shall include the non-exclusive use of access and parking areas” and other areas during the day and after school “for athletic and other activities.”

The bus garage was leased back to the schools for $1 and the district retained exclusive use of the stadium and bus garage and related parking areas. All of this was rent-free, but a clause also noted that the district “will pay for its own operating costs in connection with its use” of so-called reserved use areas.

Additionally, the agreement states: “the District and Village will agree upon a utility cost based upon the energy for lights and heat during the times when the interior spaces are used by the District.”

And that is where divide seems to have occurred.

White said “what’s very clear now is that our interpretation of the utility costs is not the same,” and both parties are trying to work that out.

“We looked at the formula, and from the very beginning it was clear that the mayor and Village Council think the formula is very confusing and hard to follow,” White said. “We don’t agree with what they invoiced us.”

He said the district has a different understanding of the formula for sharing utility costs, and that is one of the sticking points he said he and village officials will sit down with and hammer out at a meeting Jan. 10.

“I just want to sit down and talk it out without them locking out our student-athletes,” White said. “I want to be a good neighbor and work with them, but I have an obligation that I only want to pay our costs … without the threat of being locked out.”

LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss on Friday declined further comment on the matter.

White said Friday he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate for the village to make money off the schools. Village Council members on Thursday said the same about the schools making money off the village.

“That’s not an appropriate use of the funds of the Keystone Local School District,” White said.

Contact Dave O’Brien at 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

Village Officials and Keystone Superintendent have Utility Discussions at old Keystone High School

LaGrange seeks help with bills


LaGRANGE — A gym at the former Keystone High School will continue to be open to Wildcat baseball and softball players for winter “open workouts,” Village Council decided by consensus Thursday.

The use of the gym became the subject of controversy after village officials said Keystone Schools was not paying its fair share of the cost of keeping the gym lit and heated. An agreement signed several years ago resulted in the schools selling the building to the village for $1 and saving on the cost of demolition.

Despite ballplayers still using the gym for open workouts, the utility bills were shouldered entirely by the village and its residents, Mayor Kim Strauss said. The village was presented with “a small check” last month to help defray the cost, he said.

“The 2,300 people who live in (the village) are who pays” the utility bills for the facility, Strauss said. What the village is trying to do, he said, is “to work out a deal that is fair, so (ballplayers) have the use of that gym exclusively.”

Parents of baseball and softball players, coaches and supporters of the sports programs who showed up at Thursday’s Council meeting said players had been locked out of the gym several times, and also were unfairly blamed for vandalism and theft there.

Keystone baseball head coach Bert Fitzgerald told Village Council he didn’t appreciate his players being blamed, especially on social media, for alleged vandalism of the building.

“It’s all unfounded,” he said. “We followed the agreement. … I was pretty offended.”

Village officials said they had kept the gym open for three years, allowing Keystone High School ballplayers to use it, without a penny shared for the cost of keeping the heat and lights on until last month, when “a small check” was received by the village, Council President Gary Kincannon said.

In the three years prior, “we never collected a penny” toward utility bills, Councilman Barry Price said.

Without discussing specifics of the agreement between the schools and the village or what was said in a meeting earlier Thursday between the two parties, Kincannon said both agreed to meet again Jan. 10 prior to the Village Council meeting that night “to go over all the statistics.”

Keystone Schools Superintendent Dan White, who also attended Thursday’s meeting, said the schools weren’t aware the bills were an issue until they were sent an invoice.

At no time during the conversation did the schools want the gym locked, he said.

“We all want a strong community and obviously part of that is working together,” White said. “We want to pay our fair share of the cost of utilities. That’s fair, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Council members said they also wanted to find a solution, and didn’t want to bring attorneys into the matter.

“That just makes it worse,” said Kincannon. White agreed, saying the only way the schools would consult legal counsel would be “if our backs are to the wall.”

The village still is converting the buildings for use as the LaGrange police station and village offices, which moved in Oct. 29. Meanwhile, the village leased the bus garage on the property back to the school district for $1.

Kincannon reminded the crowd of about 30 people — many dressed in Keystone Wildcats colors — of the makeup of Village Council.

“Five of the six of us up here are Keystone graduates. Four of six played baseball. Three of six are in the Keystone Hall of Fame,” he said. “Anyone who thinks we’re here to hurt the baseball team is sadly mistaken.”

He said Council wants to make sure “the agreement going forward covers the cost of utilities in the auxiliary gym, going forward.”

“Hopefully we find a middle ground. Hopefully that’ll be on Jan. 10,” Kincannon said.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

Deal Struck with the Township Trustees: No Secession


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 Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

Old Keystone High hosts Police from all over the Country!


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 Follow her @MLinebrinkCT on Twitter.

Please Review Republic Services Recycling Policy


Curbside Recycling Program

Acceptable Materials:

Newspapers: The entire newspaper including inserts.

Aluminum, steel, and bimetal: Food and beverage cans only.

Glass: Food and beverage containers only.

Plastic: Food and beverage containers marked with a #1 through #7 on them.

Plastic: Detergent and soap containers marked with a #1 through #7 on them.

Cartons / Aseptic containers: Milk.juice, etc.

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

Do not recycle:

No Containers with excessive foods or liquids still in the container.

No Containers that contained hazardous materials such as oil or anti-freeze.

No Shredded paper.

No Styrofoam, aluminum foil, pie tins, etc …

No Light bulbs, Christmas lights, window glass, ceramics, china, etc …

No Plastic wrap, plastic bags, toys, flowerpots, garden hoses, etc …

No Clothing, blankets, household linens, furniture, etc …

No Plastics not marked #1 through #7.

No Scrap metal, batteries, chains, car parts, pots & pans, knifes, etc …

No needles, syringes, medical waste, or sharps.

No wood.





West Main St. Cemetery to Become Property of the Village

The LaGrange Cemetery, located on West Main Street, has been the property and has been maintained by LaGrange Township for over 100 years.  Due to a recent discovery in the Ohio Revised Code, the cemetery became the property of the Village on January 1st, 2018.  Under the ORC, townships are not allowed to own cemeteries within the boundaries of a municipality.  This cemetery is full, but all titles to plots and records pertaining to the cemetery will become the property of the Village.  The Village will also be responsible to maintain the cemetery.  If there are any concerns. Contact the LaGrange Municipal Offices at:  440-355-5555.