Legal questions arise: New building or addition?

The cost of maintenance, utilities and staff to run a proposed 59,500-square-foot student activity center attached to Center Grove High School would total more than $100,000 per year.

School district officials said Center Grove can afford those expenses out of its general fund, which also is used to pay employee salaries and other operating expenses.

But a resident who opposes the proposed $10 million fieldhouse project said that information should have been calculated and made public much earlier.

Frank Rossa, who has started a petition and remonstrance process against the project, said the operational costs should have been included in a legal notice the school district published shortly after the school board gave initial approval to the project.

But school officials disagree, saying the type of project doesn’t require that information to be included in the notice under state law.

Under state law, the estimated operating costs must be included in the published legal notice for a new facility.

But school officials and their attorney don’t view the new student activity center as a new facility. Instead, they consider the center to be an addition to Center Grove High School, meaning the operating expenses did not have to be included under the law, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

Plans for the new fieldhouse show it would be connected to the south end of the high school. The weight room would be improved and expanded as part of the project, Arkanoff said.

Rossa said he reads the law differently.

If Rossa wanted to try to prove Center Grove didn’t follow the law, he would have to pursue legal action in a county court, according to the state Department of Local Government Finance, which oversees government-funded projects, and the county election board attorney. The state and county don’t oversee the notice Center Grove published, officials said. That notice is used to let the public know that the window has opened to allow them to begin the petition and remonstrance process, if they want, said Michael Duffey, general counsel for the state department.

State law doesn’t say what would happen if the notice was improperly done, Duffey said, and he didn’t know if that question had ever come up before.

Rossa doesn’t plan to argue the point further because of the cost to him and the school district.

“It would not benefit anyone. All that would do is delay the process at that point. It would cost the school money. I think it’s a waste of time and money,” Rossa said.

But he still thinks the information should have been included in the notice and should have been available to taxpayers sooner. Ideally, taxpayers should have that information during the time they can start the petition and remonstrance process, so they have a full idea of the total costs of the project, he said.

And school officials should have been considering that information from the beginning when they proposed the project, he said.

“I would think that would be an important part in the decision making process,” he said.

School officials discussed the operating expenses, which are estimated at $105,000 to $125,000, before the school board approved the project, but the amount was not included in the notice.

School officials disagree with Rossa that the notice, published last month, did not follow the law by not including that information.

But either way, the information on operating costs should have been included in the notice, he said.

“That is a substantial amount of money,” Rossa said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.