Demolition leads to new banking opportunity
WICKLIFFE - Even when everyone knows it needs to be done - there is a degree of sadness when your old school building is demolished. There's something about watching dust from the demolition float away into the atmosphere that restores a flood of memories. For many of us, there is a wealth of old memories in those old buildings from the first graduating class of Wickliffe High to the last elementary student who walked out the door for the final time in the winter of 2005. The new Ballard County Elementary opened in January 2006.
Many of us had a lot of good years on that property. I remember where I was sitting when we saw American's first spaceship land on the moon. I remember exactly where I was standing in the hallway when the news of President Kennedy's death echoed through the school. I remember Mr. Ashbrook throwing a chalk-filled eraser at me and hitting me squarely in the middle of my right cheek because I was talking in class. When I think about it, I still can taste the chalk dust! I guess I was lucky because he'd nearly shake the teeth out of the boys with his "Ashbrook shake"! I remember watching Mr. Green spank kids who misbehaved - right in front of the entire class. I don't know if it ever did any good because some of the same ones got a whipping every day. Looking back, those were some memorable days. It's amazing how watching a school being demolished can bring back memories that you never think about.
Wickliffe Elementary (which was once Wickliffe High) has been vacant much of the time since 2006 when it was closed and all five county schools consolidated to create Ballard County Elementary. The new elementary school, which has been a wonderful asset to the county, left each city with a challenge for finding new uses for their old buildings. That challenge has been daunting, and the downside is that some old schools sit idle for many years.
Actually, it is no surprise that some closed school buildings sit empty for decades. For one thing, it's hard to market a vacated school when buyers consider condition, location, size and even the possibility of asbestos. The structures, which are costly to maintain; most often are not maintained, although, through the years, previous owners and the City of Wickliffe have tried to make some beneficial use of the structure.
In January, Wickliffe City Mayor Lynn Hopkins announced that Citizen's Deposit Bank had plans to purchase one and a half acres of Wickliffe's old school property located along Highway 121 and would be constructing a new bank on the site. This past week the demolition began.
Citizen's Deposit Bank President Ricky Williams, said they are very happy to serve the people of Ballard County and hope to have a full-service, temporary, mobile unit on the site within a month. He said, "I may be pushing it a bit, but we are hoping to have full-service bank open within a month. We have a tremendous amount of business from Ballard County and this will make banking more convenient for them." The temporary site will have a drive-up window, tellers, and a lender to serve current and new accounts.
The permanent structure is expected to be finished later in the year, at which time an ATM will be added at the site. Williams said they are excited about being part of the Ballard County community and will make every effort to serve them with full-service banking. Citizen's Deposit owns banks in Arlington, Bardwell and now, Wickliffe.
The back half of the school property, which was the cafeteria, the library and offices, was not purchased by the bank. It will be renovated and renamed, City of Wickliffe Municipal Building. Wickliffe Mayor Lynn Hopkins said, "Our plans are to move out of the old warehouse by the river and move to the old cafeteria at the school property. We'll have a 10,000 sq. ft. facility there where we'll keep parts, pipes, tools, and equipment for city maintenance. In the old school library section (in the front of the building) we have plans to make a community room that can be used for larger meeting events, possible senior use and for community events and even for use during the Harvest Festival. The library section will be air-conditioned, which will really be nice when the community has the need for a space like that."
Hopkins said the city's plans are to eventually move the Harvest Festival to the old school grounds where it will be more comfortable because an air-conditioned facility would be available.
When all is said and done, the new bank and city facility is a huge step in progress for the City of Wickliffe. Hopkins added, "We are very happy to have both banks in our community and county. Both banks, (First Community Bank and Citizen's Deposit Bank), are community minded banks that support events and are aggressive community lenders. Because they are aggressive lenders, they also pay better interest rates, which is good for the community. Both banks are very solid and very profitable. We couldn't have gotten two better banks in our community."