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School board approves MPW tax abatement

HEBRON – Lakewood School Board members unanimously approved a 100 percent, 15-year tax abatement for a new MPW Industrial Services facility Feb. 10.

MPW CEO Monte Black explained to board members that MPW representatives believed Licking County approved the tax abatement when it began construction last year on its $10 million, 76,000 square feet technology and engineering facility. “We thought that we had a commitment,” he said, adding that the abatement was factored into the budget. “We’ve already added 29 jobs; we’re just getting revved up.”

Although the abatement was discussed at the county level, it “fell through the cracks” as personnel changed at the Grow Licking County Community Improvement Corporation. Though Licking County Commissioners supported the 100 percent abatement, state law requires the consent of the host school district and township (Union Township) and the county vocational school. for a 100 percent abatement. Commissioners can grant a 60 percent abatement on their own. Trustees and school board members became aware of the abatement when they were presented last October with resolutions agreeing to the 100 percent abatement.

Black said MPW was established locally in 1972, and now has 70 locations in the US and two in Canada. The company is entrenched in the community and employs many people, and the new facility would employ even more.

“We as a board have always had an open mind,” said Lakewood board member Bill Gulick. He said the district had adopted solar power and Chromebooks for students. Gulick said it’s tough to grant the abatement because the district has lost roughly $4 million in tax revenue and may lose even more; however, MPW is very important to the community and would continue to employ Lakewood graduates. Gulick urged Black to tour the Lakewood facilities and become more directly involved with it.

“It’s our fault that we’re in this situation,” Black said. “We have to be more involved.

After some deliberation in executive, or private, session, the board granted the full abatement.

“It’s important we’re an attractive location for business and industry,” said Lakewood Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews Tuesday. “We want to be good partners and expand our partnerships.” She was clear the decision has nothing to do with any future school levies. Andrews said it’s more important for the Lakewood School District to be a place that has opportunities for good employment and to be a place where Lakewood graduates want to live and raise their own families, “to live, work, and educate their children,” she said. “It’s not money that we have that we’re giving away.”

Treasurer Glenna Plaisted agreed the abatement would not affect future levies whether it was approved or not. “(MPW) was led to believe everything was approved,” she said. Simply put, Plaisted said the misunderstanding wasn’t anyone’s fault and it would be unfair to MPW not to approve the abatement.

Plaisted said MPW still would have received a 60 percent tax abatement if the district turned down the company’s request.

In other school district news:

• Tom Kraft, Central Region Liaison for Auditor of State Dave Yost, presented Plaisted and her staff with their fifth Auditor of State Award with Distinction in a row. “This is the highest award we give out, and we don’t give it out a lot,” he said. Kraft said less than five percent of Ohio’s school treasurers qualify for the award.

“It’s become almost a given,” said board president Judy White, adding that she really appreciates Plaisted and her staff’s work.

Plaisted said it’s important people know the district is handling its finances well.

• Andrews said the high and middle school administration met with Cheri Hottinger, president of the LIcking County Chamber of Commerce, recently to learn about Project Prepare. The team will be working with the Licking County Chamber of Commerce on this outreach project, which focuses on high school students who have not determined their career goals.

Students will:

*Learn more about manufacturing, as a long-term career option.

*Learn about career opportunities and pathways to find the opportunities.

*Learn about the technical skills required to start and excel in training.

*Be provided information about financial assistance, in support of the required training and programs already offered in our community.

Project Prepare will launch this spring.

• Andrews said students excelled at a band competition. Junior Kathryn McGinnis was one of many students who excelled at many events sponsored by the Ohio Music Education Association. McGinnis was one of 10 students in the entire state who joined the flute section to participate in the All-Ohio State Band, which was featured at the annual conference in Cincinnati Jan. 29.

Additionally, more than 50 students participated in the solo and ensemble contest held at Granville High School. Eighteen students received superior ratings for their solos and ensembles.

• Andrews said Lakewood High School students Zach Green and Harsimran Kaur were Lakewood’s representatives to the Rotary club during January. They also attended Rotary recently with Lakewood High School principal Scott Coffey and Andrews. She said the students were required to give a speech to the Rotary members about their experience with Rotary and what they’ve learned.

Kaur’s speech provided a glimpse into her experience as a Punjabi, an Indian, a young Sikh woman who settled in a world “unlike our own” and it has “become a priority for me to open the eyes of the people around me to the global diversity that exists in this modern day and age.

Green took a turn with Rotary and wrote a song. Rotarians sing songs at each meeting and Green put his skills to work and provided entertainment.

• Senior Mat French signed a letter of intent Feb. 3 to play football at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan. French led an offensive line that produced the best two statistical seasons in the past decade for Lakewood football.

• Lakewood girls won the Licking County League Buckeye Division

• Lakewood Assistant Jerry Thorp was named the Central District Assistant Coach of the Year for Baseball

• Lakewood graduate and College of Wooster freshman guard Reece Dupler was named North Coast Athletic Conference men’s basketball Player of the Week after having back-to-back career-high games.

• Feb. 10, The American Legion presented the Americanism Test and Government Winners, which included students Nick Novotny, Harsimran Kaur, Cameron Vayansky and Joseph Landis. Novotny is a state winner and will be receiving an all-expenses trip to Washington DC.

• Feb. 10, The Future City team, supported by middle school principal Jessica Fry and led by advisory, Pam Hundley, presented. Students Macray Kester, Patrick Guerin, and Anthony Toskin presented their design of their floating city.

“It was wonderful to see all the students who worked on the project, parents and community support in attendance,” Andrews said. In Future City competition, the students’ project called Cuidad Submarina, won 5th place overall, best Computer City design, best architectural model, and most sustainable food production system.

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