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Vacant school building moves closer to landing job-training tenant


Dispatch Staff Report



The now-vacant Union Academy building on 10th Avenue North is one step closer to obtaining a new tenant after the Columbus Planning Commission unanimously recommended a motion to change the facility''s zoning classification. 


Monday, the commission recommended the former school be changed from a residential zone to a permitted-use zone to allow the Recruitment and Training Program of Mississippi, currently occupying a building on Second Avenue North, to locate to the facility. 


RTP is a non-profit education and training program for community members who have lost their jobs. Although the Columbus Municipal School District previously agreed to allow RTP to locate to the former school, zoning classifications prevented the organization from using the building immediately. 


"The commission unanimously approved the recommendation to allow the permitted-use agreement for education and training at Union so RTP could use the facility," said Columbus Zoning Officer Kenny Wiegel. "Of course, the recommendation will now go before the City Council for their approval." 


If the zoning change is approved, RTP would rent the space for $1,600 a month, based on a state formula regulating 16th Section land. 


"We''re just trying to follow the process to help get RTP in there as quickly as possible," said CMSD Superintendent Del Phillips, adding RTP may be in the building by July 1. 


Union Academy Elementary School, along with Mitchell Memorial Elementary School, was closed at the end of the 2007-08 school year. The two schools had the lowest population of any of the district''s then-seven elementary schools and so had the highest cost per student. 


The district since has been taking proposals from potential renters to use the buildings.




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