Middletown approves second-lowest bid to demolish Lincoln School, now called an ‘eyesore’

Two fires were reported last week inside the former Lincoln School on Central Avenue in Middletown. City Council approved Vickers Demolition Inc. to demolish the buildings. Work is expected to be complete next month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Two fires were reported last week inside the former Lincoln School on Central Avenue in Middletown. City Council approved Vickers Demolition Inc. to demolish the buildings. Work is expected to be complete next month. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

In a rare decision, Middletown City Council unanimously approved the second-lowest bid — not the lowest — to demolish the former Lincoln School, a historic Butler County site whose fate has been discussed for years.

City Manager Jim Palenick said the city received 11 bids, ranging from $226,400 to $984,000, to demolish the structure at 2402 Central Ave. that was built in 1927 and has been called “an eyesore” because of its dilapidated condition.

Advanced Demolition Services of Van Wert, Ohio submitted the lowest bid for the project at $226,400, while Vickers Demolition Inc. in Trenton bid $264,000, or 17 percent higher, Palenick said.

Palenick said Advanced is a relatively new demolition company and the city was not “comfortable” contracting it to perform the work after reviewing its experiences and qualifications.

ExploreFirefighters still battling blazes in historic Middletown school building set for demolition

Susan Cohen, who recently was promoted from administrative services director to assistant city manager, said Vickers will have 40 days to complete the project. That means, depending on weather, the project should be done in May, she said.

She said the cost of the demolition will be covered by interest the city generated through its Community Development Block Grant.

The project has been approved by the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office. That office is requiring that the city salvage anything of historic value from the former school and auction those items off to the public.

But Palenick said the city received no bids for a company to salvage items because there is ““nothing there of value.”

Palenick sees the former Lincoln School and the former Roosevelt School properties, both located on Central Avenue, as possible sites for residential development.

Lincoln School closed in 1980 when students were moved up Central Avenue to Roosevelt Elementary School, which closed in 2008 and was demolished. Lincoln was then sold to Middletown Dental Group, which maintained a dental practice in the building until 2011. Several small businesses operated out of the building during that time.

The building caught fire twice on March 29. The first fire during the morning began in an old gymnasium area. The cause is unknown because “the part of the building it was in wasn’t safe to really investigate it without a risk of part of the ceiling caving in,” said Middletown Fire Capt. Frank Baughman, who is the city’s fire marshal.

But three people were found inside. Baughman said they woke two of them up, and a third met units outside. He had an outstanding warrant and was taken into custody.

About 9:15 p.m., fire units again responded and found a fire on the second floor of the main building. Baughman said he believed the second fire in intentionally set.

“The first fire had been burning for awhile, slowly for hours before we were notified,” he said. “The second fire happened after they had searched the building that day from top to bottom. And it was garbage that was set on fire on the second floor. Totally isolated from the first fire. Looks intentional.”

Baughman said there is still enough in the building to cause a large fire, and it is dangerous for both those living there and firefighters who respond.

“We try to point folks to shelters and other services,” he said. “These buildings are not safe to be in, period, then fire magnifies things. Then we have to worry about getting these people out without killing ourselves in the process.”

In Other News