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CHESAPEAKE, Ohio - Two Lawrence County commissioners apparently have worked out a tentative agreement with the Chesapeake Board of Education to keep the Chesapeake Community Center as a community center, said Commissioner Bill Pratt.

"We anticipate it will remain a community center, but not under Chesapeake schools," Pratt said during a school board meeting Monday night at Chesapeake High School.

"It's a tentative agreement with the board," Pratt said. "We'll try to work out the details. We have ways we can make it work out. I'm happy."

Details of the agreement weren't released. Pratt and Commissioner Freddie Hayes apparently met in executive session with school board members and possibly others.

The school board owns the community center and had approached officials there, wanting to sell the building for $225,000. The price subsequently was lowered to $200,000.

The building is home to a food pantry, a buddy basketball league and a number of other community activities. A trailer adjacent to the center served as a feeding site for seniors.

Bill Booth, a community center volunteer, said the food pantry has served 1,367 people this year. "We spend $5,000 a month on food. The food pantry is very needed in this community."

Donna Plybon, another food bank volunteer, said initially five churches participated in the food pantry. That number has increased to 15 churches, she said. "It's for such a good cause," she said.

After hearing from several community members at Monday's meeting, the board voted to go into executive session closed to the public. However, board members didn't state a reason for the private meeting, an apparent violation of Ohio's open meetings law.

"We want it to stay as a community center," Pratt said during the executive session.

"We want to see them keep it for a senior center and for buddy basketball," Hayes said.

Approximately $300,000 was secured for the community center earlier this year in the Capitol Bill. The money is for a new roof, an elevator and to make necessary repairs in the basement.

Doug Scott, a member of the community center's board of directors, said 1,000 people a month get fed from the food bank at the community center.

"The seniors need that building," said DeAnna Holliday, a Democratic candidate for Lawrence County Commissioner in the November general election. "It's a huge part of this community. It provides much-needed services for seniors and others."

Pratt announced the tentative agreement after the board had been in executive session for about an hour.

The community center, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, has been open to the public since 1989.

Dick Meyers, a Chesapeake lawyer representing the community center, said that the board has spent more than $185,000 on the building over the years, mostly for maintenance and remodeling.

The community center has a range of activities and programs and is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.


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