MONROE, Ga. — The Monroe Community Building will soon return to its original purpose as a place of education.
Monroe Country Day School will take over the building for the next five years after the Monroe City Council approved a lease agreement at its monthly meeting Tuesday night.
“Our staff was approached by the Monroe Country Day school about a multiyear lease on the building,” City Administrator Logan Propes told the council.
“It was noted in some work sessions that any future tenant should complement the neighborhood area, be relatively low-impact. Staff later asked if this would fit the character of the neighborhood and then we were authorized to negotiate a lease agreement.”
The vote wasn’t without opposition. Councilman Norman Garrett voiced his displeasure over the proposal due to the fact Councilwoman Lee Malcom is on the board of directors for MCDS and Councilman David Dickinson’s wife, Rita Dickinson, is the school’s founder and director.
Both Malcom and Dickinson recused themselves from anything to do with the agreement, including voting at Tuesday’s meeting.
“To me some of this stuff seems unethical,” Garrett said. “It may be ethical, but it doesn’t seem like it. It may be moral, but it doesn’t seem like it.”
The Community Building has been heavily subsidized by the city for a number of years despite being available for rent by the community. In 2019 the city received $15,900 from rental income while spending $30,448 in maintenance and utilities. That cost does not include staff hours or overtime and the utilities are at the city’s cost, not the customer rate.
The city’s revenue/expense for the building in 2018 was also in the red by $9,823.
The terms of the agreement for Monroe Country Day School to move in the building are for a five-year lease with an initial base rent of $20,000 for year one, $35,000 for year two, $45,000 for year three and $55,000 for years four and five.
“Right now we’re upside down by a great degree. With the current five-year proposal (by not leasing to the school), the city is slated to lose at least $61,000,” Propes said of the city currently losing revenue on the building.
“The five-year project (for Monroe Country Day School to be in the building) we’re talking about $215,000 plus utility revenue from the facility. The other benefit is getting a vital use out of that building and returning it to what it was originally. I think it’s a win for the community to do that and get it off the city’s books.”
The 9,792-square-foot building was built in 1914 as the local schoolhouse. It became the Monroe Community Center in 2004.
Rita Dickinson founded Monroe Country Day School in 2015 as a school where “experienced faculty nurture, guide and encourage students to achieve academic excellence and social responsibility.”
The school opened its current location in 2016 at 603 S. Broad St. in the former Johnston Academy — the old school building which once served the children of the mill village, long abandoned and transformed into numerous other ventures before its most recent incarnation.