In an effort to preserve parts of the building and partner with the Highland Community, Huron Valley School Superintendent Jim Baker and Highland Supervisor Rick Hamill unveiled a collaborative idea for the Highland Middle School Property.
The idea, which was unveiled at Wednesday's Highland Township meeting, won't save the entire building—but it will preserve the history of the school and allow the township to make good use of the space in collaboration with the school district.
"As you know, the township's original offer to purchase the building for $1 was denied," Hamill said. "But it opened up a dialogue with the school district and through that process we've come up with something that I think will allow the property to maintain value to the community. It's something Supervisor Baker came up with using ideas we'd discussed and I think it shows that both the township and the school district are serious about being good stewards of Highland Township and working with the community."
In a letter to Hamill, Baker said he hopes this idea will be a "win-win" for both the district and Highland Township.
"We see the Highland Middle School property as an area that has potential to meet the need for future growth," Baker wrote. "With your help, we can promote positive effects that outshine the negative of total destruction."
The idea, according to Baker, is to have the district keep the gymnasium on the southwest corner of the property intact. It will be maintained by the district for future use through the Community Recreation & Education program.
In exchange, the district would request that the township take on the responsibility, financially, of connecting the utilities and the installation of the necessary HVAC systems that will be needed to heat and cool the gym.
"The school district's goal would be to remain cost neutral in regards to the annual operation of this facility. We simply cannot allow ourselves to fall into a deficit spending situation," Baker wrote. "Therefore, further conversations would have to take place (with Highland Township) in regards to shared future costs, legacy costs etc."
The ball fields would stay where they are, and Hamill said a soccer field could be added to the property. In addition, Baker said the district would like to keep the entry area of the original school building intact—this would allow the township to preserve the historical aspect of the school and memorialize part of the original structure.
Hamill said this plan would allow Highland to have a space that the community could utilize for festivals, sports tournaments and other events. In addition, it might provide the opportunity and incentive needed to get the city water supply to extend under M-59 to the area south so the gym, township offices, police department and fire department could be hooked up.
The school board is expected to look at this idea and any other they receive at a special meeting Jan. 15 at Lakeland High School at 7 p.m.