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County approves plan to sell facility

Champaign County officials took a step forward this week with a proposal to sell an office building used by the county Department of Developmental Disabilities.

The Lawnview Industries Inc. facility, at 1250 U.S. 36, is one of two buildings now in use by Developmental Disabilities, and is used primarily for office space for staff members, as well as case management and services for adults with developmental disabilities. The agency also operates a Lawnview Child and Family Center on U.S. 68 that houses preschool education and other services.

However, the department will likely try to move all of its services into the family and child center at 2200 U.S. 68 and sell the U.S. 36 site, a plan that could save the organization as much as $180,000 annually in operational costs, said Laura Zureich, director of the Champaign County DoDD.

“Our program has reached the point where we could utilize only one of those,” she said.

A resolution approved by the commissioners this week is only an initial step in that process. Any revenue generated by the sale would go to Developmental Disabilities, and could be used for renovations.

The preschool program at the family and child centeris run by the Champaign-Madison Educational Service Center, but that agency plans to change its strategy and house the preschool program at local school districts instead.

With that change, enough space will be available at the family and child centerfor the department to have office space and manage all of its programs at a single site. In all, the DoDD serves about 530 residents with developmental disabilities of all ages.

The preschool program has been run at the site on U.S. 68 for several years, said Dan Kaffenbarger, superintendent for the Madison-Champaign ESC. There are eight classes and about 140 students at the school now. He said the DoDD offered to allow the preschool to take over the entire building, but it would have been too costly.

Instead, the ESC plans to use a different model in which pre-school students attend facilities in districts like Urbana and Mechanicsburg.

Kaffenbarger said although all staff members will be retained, it will be a difficult move because the staff has been working together in the family and child center for several years.

“In a lot of ways it’s like breaking up a family,” Kaffenbarger said.

A building planning committee has been formed, but has only met once, Zureich said. Eventually the committee will conduct a study to determine what the building on U.S. 68 should look like, and will put the project out for bid.

The Developmental Disabilities, which shares services and some administrative staff with Shelby County, received funding from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to purchase the Lawnview Industries site on U.S. 36. several years ago.

Zureich said they also must consult with the state to make sure there are no issues with selling the facility.

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