A civil lawsuit has been filed against a local organization attempting to renovate a former school building and auditorium.
Rick Graber, doing business as G5 Architecture in Archbold, filed the lawsuit in Henry County Common Pleas Court Aug. 30 against the Napoleon Civic Center. The lawsuit is for a breach of contract as Graber alleges the civic center has not paid him $90,393.92 he is owed, plus interest, for his architect services.
The lawsuit was served to a representative of the civic center foundation Aug. 31, and the organization has 28 days to respond.
Jeffrey Tonjes, treasurer for the Napoleon Civic Center, said the non-profit organization has been making payments to the architect as funds allow.
“It’s saddening,” Tonjes said of the filing of the lawsuit. “We have been upfront with G5 about our financial situation from the beginning and have provided verbal, written and face-to-face updates with them. We have sent numerous payments toward our bill with G5 as we receive donations.
“We are committed in fulfilling our obligation with G5, however donations, unfortunately, are not coming in as quick as we would hope and we our unable to fulfill our financial obligation as quickly as G5 would like,” he continued.
Tonjes noted the foundation has been utilizing donated funds for the first architect on the project, an engineering firm and payments to G5, plus $10,000 in legal fees in relation to the purchase agreement.
The Napoleon Civic Center Foundation formed as Napoleon Area City Schools was beginning its Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project. With the construction of a new pre-kindergarten through sixth grade building and a junior high addition built onto the renovated high school, the former Central Elementary School and Napoleon Middle School building along West Main Street was no longer needed by the district. The foundation purchased the property for $1 in the summer of 2017 with the intention of renovating it and converting it into a civic center. At the time of the purchase, all of the renovations were estimated at approximately $2.5 million with a $500,000 contingency.
“I think, because of the long process, people are wondering if it will get done,” Tonjes added, but stated the foundation is committed to the project. “The plans are done, the permits are done, all we’re waiting on is funds — donations from the community.
“The foundation plans to continue to the move forward toward saving and restoring this beautiful historical building for the community,” he continued. “We are closer than ever to get this project moving forward we just can’t do it without the community.”
Tonjes said the first phase of the renovation project will cost $1.3 million and, once completed, will allow the foundation to have an occupancy permit for a portion of the building. Once portions can be utilized and rented out, the foundation hopes to use the additional revenue generated to help with the remaining renovations.
Part of the purchase agreement with the district included a clause that, after five years, any portions of the building which do not have a certificate of occupancy would be subject to demolition. An anonymous donor pledged the $547,000 for an escrow account which has been set up to cover demolition expenses if necessary, but those funds cannot be used for other portions of the project.