Rumors that Jamestown Public Schools is leasing space in the former Rogers Elementary School building to private agencies have been greatly exaggerated.
"It's simply not true," said Deke Kathman, superintendent of schools. "As of right now, we only have school-related materials in the building."
The rumors have sprung up in the midst of controversy surrounding the fate of the former school building. Last week, Kathman was issued a letter from Larry Scalise, building and zoning code enforcement officer of Jamestown's Department of Development. The letter discusses a discrepancy in the use of the Rogers building for storage in relation to its zoning code.
According to the letter, the Rogers building is currently in an R-1 single-family residential zoning district. This only allows for the building to function as a church, school or single-family residence.
The letter states, "Under the City of Jamestown Zoning Ordinance, storage and warehouse facilities are only allowed without a zoning variance in the L-M Light Manufacturing or M Manufacturing districts or in the C-4 Central Commercial District or C-M Service and Highway Commercial District only after obtaining a 'special-use' permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals."
The letter also states that this information was discussed with JPS during a meeting between the two organizations in March of last year. After JPS had announced its decision to close Rogers, there were several residential and parent concerns about the fate of the building, to which JPS had responded with its intention to utilize the building for storage.
According to Steve Centi, director of development, the letter was sent as a follow-up to reports of activity on the premises.
"Council members and the mayor have received calls that people have seen trucks over there," said Centi. "(We sent the letter) to protect ourselves from a legal standpoint and to provide a comfort level to the residents by showing that we're monitoring the situation."
The Department of Development has spelled out the situation to JPS regardless of what the school system decides to do with the building. If JPS decides to go through with its plan to use Rogers as a storage facility, it will need to submit a request for zoning variance to the City of Jamestown's Zoning Board of Appeals for review. If the request is granted, the school may then be issued a "special-use" permit allowing for JPS to use the building as a storage facility.
In consideration of another possibility, the letter concluded itself with a warning.
"If the Jamestown Public School system is currently using the former Rodgers Elementary School as a storage/warehouse facility, I respectfully ask you to immediately cease and desist," the letter states. "Failure to comply will result in the issuance of an appearance ticket to Jamestown City Court."
As of now, the Department of Development has not received notification from JPS regarding their final decision on the matter but advocates for public involvement in the decision-making process.
"We have encouraged the school to engage the public and the surrounding neighborhood in discussions of what they are doing and why, as opposed to just moving forward," Centi said.
According to Kathman, JPS is in the process of reviewing the content of the letter and determining the most appropriate course of action.