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Demolition to displace polling place for 5,000 voters

Food bank, church also to lose home when old school torn down next year.

Add more than 5,000 voters from seven Springboro precincts to the list of people affected by plans to demolish the Jonathan Wright School building.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the local school board is expected to vote to raze the former school now housing the Living Waters Lutheran Church and Springboro Community Action Center.

If so, Nov. 3 should be the last time voters from precincts 69, 70, 71, 74, 86, 88 and 89 cast their ballots in the former school at 40 Florence Drive, just southwest of the Ohio 73 and Ohio 741 at the center of Springboro.

“That’s a big polling place,” said Ellis Jacobs, a lawyer involved in voter rights issues. “It shouldn’t have a big impact. It depends on where they move it to.”

Warren County Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth said his office was close to nailing down new locations and would post them on large signs as part of efforts to notify voters.

Sleeth said the school board’s decision to tear down the school spoiled the election board’s consolidation of the seven precincts at the school, beginning last November. About 5,600 voters are registered from those precincts.

“We moved it to one location because we thought it was a better location. Now they’re tearing it down,” Sleeth said.

According to Sleeth:

Precinct 69 was moved from the Springboro Public Library, because of parking issues. Precinct 86 was moved from Lytle-Five Points Elementary School, in response to a request from the district based on student safety concerns.

Precinct 88 was moved from the Springboro Baptist Church because of parking issues, Precinct 89 from the Warren County Career Center because of the inadequacy of the space provided.

Precincts 70, 71 and 74 were moved from the First United Methodist Church because of conflicts with preschool and parking problems.

Three precincts will probably be moved to the local Eagles lodge, while the board continues to assess options for the other four, Sleeth said.

“This is the biggest location we’ve ever lost,” he said, estimating it would cost about $6,000 to notify the voters of the change by mail.

“It just confuses the voters,” he added, particularly heading into a presidential election year.

The new polling places should be in place by March, when the presidential primaries will be held.

“It’s a practice run before a large general election. You don’t want to make this kind of change right before a large general election,” Jacobs said.

The school board delayed its decision on the building to allow more time for community reaction. Otherwise the district faces a roof repair bill and other liabilities with aging building systems.

So far, no one has protested demolition of the building, opened in 1956 and closed in 2009, at a school board meeting.

“In fact, just the opposite. They feel like it’s been kind of passed down the line. Somebody needs to do something,” board President Charles Anderson said.

Officials say the key concern is that the name of the city’s founder Jonathan Wright be preserved in the demolition. His name is to mark what would become a 6.4 acre park and nature center.

The land could be used for a school or sold as part of redevelopment around the intersection in coming years.

“If we deal wisely with the land, I think that’s what many in the community are looking for,” Board Member Ron Malone said at an August board meeting.

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