The City of London has a potential fire hazard on its hands in the form of the proposed Brightway Institute housed in the old high school building complex situated at 60 S. Walnut St.
At Wednesday night’s Property Committee meeting, the state of the building, as well as evidence of unlawful entrance and possible inhabitancy of the structure, were discussed.
The building, currently owned by Kara Bright Career College, was purchased from the city for $1. The deed was transferred on Jan. 14, 2016 according to the Madison County Auditor’s website.
The Brightway Institute says it is an “innovative and dynamic two-year Christian college for young adults choosing a holistic college experience.”
As of yet, no classes have been held.
The City of London currently leases the gymnasium from Brightway to serve as its Community Center.
According to Properties Committee Chairman Rex Castle, it was related that there were signs of fires having burned into the floor and a table in an unused portion of the complex. Refuse such as old papers and books had also accumulated.
Castle was uncertain as to whether the building was being inhabited illegally long-term, or if people were just breaking in to vandalize and then leaving.
Either way, he believed that the Properties Committee wanted the city administration to do something about it.
Speaking about Brightway, Castle said: “We have dealt with this institute for a long time. Whenever they come to a meeting, they always say it’s coming up roses, but nothing ever seems to sprout from the ground.”
Castle feels that it will eventually take some sort of legal action to take control back of the properties, he said.
“Part of the problem is ownership. We have to go about it in an appropriate manner or they could come back and possibly sue.”
London Fire Department Chief Todd Eades said he was unaware of any new damage to the building.
“I haven’t been to that portion of the building,” he said. “I do know that a couple of years ago when the city still owned the building that a book had been burned in the old auditorium.”
Eades has been attempting to contact Bill Pizzino, CEO of the Brightway Institute, to schedule a safety inspection.
Currently, Pizzino’s voicemail box is full and his message states that he is recovering from knee surgery and can only be contacted through e-mail.
Last attempts to contact Pizzino via e-mail were on Dec. 19.
Pizzino has yet to reply.
“Now it is kind of a waiting game to see how things will go,” Eades said.
How long of a wait until the city will do something without consent from the property’s owner is the call of the city’s safety director, according to Eades.
Eades has ordered a directive to the department’s firefighters to work under the assumption that the structure is vacant, but that there may be people inside in the event of a fire.
Although the Brightway Institute’s CEO is unavailable, its president, Dr. Debra Tracy, was available to talk when called by The Madison Press. Her number and contact info was found on Brightway’s website — directly above Pizzino’s.
Tracy was also unaware of anyone unlawfully gaining entrance to the building, let alone starting fires.
“I know there’s a concern about the building just sitting there, that is all I am aware of. I will have to let Bill know,” Tracy said.
As to when (and if) classes might begin is anybody’s guess.
“The curriculum for concrete finishing is ready to go,” Tracy said. “We just need students to enroll.”
She foresees the possibility of, perhaps, sometime in March as a general start date.
The concrete finishing courses are planned to be held in the old, smaller “vo-ag” building that sits behind the main building.
The academic classes, such as math and English, would take considerable funding before they could begin.
“I am not certain, but likely it would take somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 to get things going well,” she said.
The Brightway Institute hopes to have these courses in place by fall of 2018, given that the funding is raised — that and getting the building declared safe.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.
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