Butler Community College gave its notice to the city of Marion last week that it will terminate its lease of the historic Bown-Corby Building on N. Second St. effective Aug. 1.
In a letter to city administrator Roger Holter dated June 2, college President Kim Krull said the college was moving out because of the expense of staying in Bown-Corby. The city leases the building to Butler for only $25 a year, but the college is concerned about the cost of high-speed Internet service and maintenance of the building. On Monday, Krull said the college expected to save $55,000 to $60,000 a year by moving out of the building. Internet and telephone bills alone were $16,000, Krull said.
Krull said Holter and Heitschmidt offered to look for ways to help keep the college in Bown-Corby, but Butler’s Board of Trustees had already made its decision to move out.
Total Marion enrollment in Butler for recent semesters was 76 students in fall 2012, 80 in spring 2013, 65 in fall 2013, and 62 in spring 2014.
Krull’s letter indicated the college plans to move classes to the Hill Building at Marion High School. She said the likely new location will be better for the college by allowing high school students better access to the college, and she hopes to offer more dual-credit classes.
USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said Friday that he planned to include discussion of renting space to the college at the upcoming meeting, 5:30 p.m. Monday.
He said what he has discussed with college officials is office space for two or three people and a dedicated classroom in the northeast corner of the Hill Building. JoAnn Good is the only teacher who would need to change classrooms for such a plan to fit, Leiker said.
“I do see a benefit of having the Butler office on the high school campus,” he said. “We have the room.”
Leiker said he understands Butler’s intention to lower costs for utilities, Internet service, and maintenance, and he thinks the district and college can have a mutually beneficial partnership.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to work with Butler to give them a good place that they can serve students and the community well,” he said.
At a special meeting Thursday, City Council member Chad Adkins requested the council discuss the future of the building at its next meeting.
“We go to Florence, and we go for community service day for the middle school, and there are some pretty awesome buildings over there that are just trash holes now, and they’ve just totally rotted away and fallen apart,” Adkins said Monday. “I did not assume that that’s the approach we would take, but I wanted to know what we were going to do with it.”
Economic development director Terry Jones presented a couple of ideas for the building. One was to use Bown-Corby for office space for business start-ups. His other idea was to try to attract an adult education center to it, although Marion County Learning Center already exists in Hillsboro.
As a banker, Heitschmidt has some experience dealing with vacant buildings — from when borrowers default.
“Any time a building is not occupied, it deteriorates at a faster rate,” he said Friday.
When a bank takes over a vacant building, it typically turns off the water, winterizes the pipes when appropriate, and leave electric and gas service on, as well as air conditioning in the summer.
“You try to keep a constant temperature,” Heitschmidt said.
He said the city should take a similar approach with the Bown-Corby Building, particularly if it thinks it can find new tenants.
“It’s kind of hard to show a building in the dark,” he said.
Leiker said he hoped the city could find new tenants for the Bown-Corby Building, because he thought it was still a viable building for a business.
Heitschmidt said the city will try to get a new tenant — or multiple tenants — as soon as possible if Butler moves out. He said he had some ideas, but nobody had approached the city about the building.