While the former Ivers J. Norton Elementary School will not be placed on the tax rolls after the approved sale to Epic Church — and some have lingering doubts about how the church can afford to maintain the building in years to come — the deal could still be a win for Olean.
The Olean City School District and the city as a whole have been extremely fortunate during the past several years in finding buyers for closed school buildings, which often can be difficult to sell. Communities often are faced with poor choices regarding closed schools: Maintain the unused building at school district (really taxpayer) expense, hoping that a developer or organization will come along with a plan for repurposing the property — or let it fall into decay and become a blight on the city.
But in the case of the former North Hill Elementary School in North Olean, New Life Christian School stepped in to give the building ... well, new life. The school could easily have fallen into neglected disrepair through the years, but in a transaction that made nothing but sense, it still serves as a center of learning and community for its students, educators and supporters.
Meanwhile, the former Boardmanville Elementary School, with its many recent upgrades and proximity to the Olean General Hospital campus, was sold rather quickly to private business interests.
Of course, the best scenario for the IJN building — and for the community — was the once-planned purchase by Community Bank. The plan would have placed the building on the city’s tax rolls and could have resulted in increased jobs if the bank had followed through on suggestions that it might move more operations into the site.
But the bank stepped back from the deal and, clearly, there were no other more optimal, higher bidders than Chuck and Paris Maine, pastors of Epic Church on West Greene Street. They have a vision for the building and were able to meet the minimum price the school district could accept.
There is indeed an element of faith in the scenario — faith that the Maines know what they are doing and that their church has the resources. But the prospect of maintaining the empty, unused building was not an attractive one for the school district.
Perhaps there is a place for clinical applications of marijuana, backed by medical science, to relieve pain or other symptoms, but it is clear that much of the rhetoric on loosening or even dropping marijuana laws nationwide is driven merely by folks who want to smoke the drug recreationally.
It is inescapable that polls reveal a more ambivalent view of marijuana — at the very least, many Americans believe marijuana infractions should not carry the same weight as offenses involving illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
But the drift toward permissiveness regarding marijuana, or the belief that smoking it is merely akin to drinking alcohol, is dangerous.
First, while alcohol is indeed legal for adults, evidence of the destruction it brings to countless lives is plain for all to see. Should we willingly add another substance to the potential devastation?
Marijuana, which appears in forms far more potent today than when the flower children puffed away in the ’60s, is more addictive than ever and serves as a gateway drug to even more dangerous narcotics. Marijuana can impede brain development in young people and can destroy brain function over time, affecting memory cognitive abilities. Studies show that the effects never dissipate.
Be very careful about casually allowing marijuana to ease into the mainstream.
The greater Olean area continues to be blessed with a strong local theater community that presents high-level, ambitious productions for everyone to enjoy.
The play “To Kill a Mockingbird” continues at 2:30 p.m. today at the Washington Street Theater, giving the audience a chance to revisit Harper Lee’s story of 1930s Alabama. The well-regarded play is directed by Nicholas Patrone and assistant D.B. Busan and features Bob Riggs as Atticus, young Grace Ventura as Scout, Jesse Turner as Tom Robinson and others in strong performances.
Meanwhile, the multiple-award-winning Olean Community Theatre will open its 35th season with the classic musical “Funny Girl,” directed by Minna Badanes, Friday through Feb. 16 in the Allegany-Limestone High School auditorium.
St. Bonaventure University students with the Phi Rho fraternity have braved the cold this weekend in a hut set up in front of the Reilly Center to raise funds for the Genesis House homeless shelter. Dr. Mary Olufunmilayo Adekson, professor of the counselor education department on campus, said the graduate-level students have taken part in the fundraiser annually.
In Cuba, student groups are collecting new or gently used pairs of jeans for Teens for Jeans, a national organization that gathers jeans for needy families. Seventh-grader Haley Mott came up with the idea, taken up by the school district’s Teen Leadership class and Friends of Rachel Club.
The students will collect jeans through Friday.