School District may buy adjacent church

Could be used for larger playground, better bussing routes, water retention and charter school

FIRST EVANGELICAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH in Cedar Grove is slated to close in spring and may be sold to the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District. Photo by Sam Arendt

By MITCH MAERSCH

Ozaukee Press staff

A Cedar Grove church slated to close in spring may serve the community in a different fashion for years to come.

Electors in the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District on Jan. 11 approved allowing Supt. Chad Brakke to negotiate purchase of the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church and its lot, which are adjacent to the school district.

Brakke already had approval to negotiate for the purchase of a portion of the church’s property, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the church offered its building and the entire lot for $70,000 plus closing costs.

The district already has options on how to use both.

“We would have the green space to expand our elementary playground,” Brakke said.

“It also may give us more opportunity with bus looping to do some things out into Main (street). And also with water retention — we had to move parking lots to the west — I believe we could use that side for water retention.”

The building could become another school.

“We have walked through the building. We have looked at some things,” Brakke said. “David Friend (Rocket Academy Director)has his eye on it for a charter school to have its own space.”

The Rocket Academy, a charter school focusing on technical education slated to open this fall, has been searching for a home for more than a year. The plan is to start it at the high school before finding a long-term building.

During the public hearing, High School Principal Josh Ketterhagen spoke in favor of the purchase.

“As hard as it is for me to see a church go to the point of where churches have, I believe that this is the best thing for our community and the people of our community, and it will stay within our community for a good purpose,” he said.

“This is not an easy time for the church and the members of this church. This is not an easy thing, but I believe this is the best possible solution for what’s happening right now.”

Money to buy the church would come from the general fund, District Business Manager Tera Rogers said.

Nearly $80,000 is slated to be transferred from the general fund to a capital improvements fund. Rogers said she and Brakke determined it would make sense to use that money to buy the church instead.

“The state always wants to see us spending all of our money,” she said.

Board member Aileen Dahlke asked about the house on the corner next to the church. It uses the church’s parking lot to get to the street.

Brakke said an agreement would likely be drawn up to continue that practice.

Board member Kurt Kraus asked about asbestos in the building.

Brakke said using the building won’t disturb it, but remodeling or demolishing the building would likely require abatement.

“A building that old, 100 years old, you’re going to have some asbestos in there,” he said.

If the purchase goes through, the district would establish a lease agreement allowing the church to use the building until its final service on May 21, Brakke said.

At the School Board meeting immediately following the meeting of the electors, the board unanimously approved a resolution to allow Brakke to negotiate the purchase.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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