A Dream For Sumner School May Still Be Alive

By: Brian Dorman Email
By: Brian Dorman Email

Those with Community First lead by Sandra Lassiter filled the seats at Tuesday's City Council meeting waiting for an opportunity to ask them for an extension to their expired contract.

Community First entered into a contract with the city of Topeka in November of 2007 that expired this past Saturday, May 31st at midnight. The city says Community First failed to meet the required $3.6 million dollars in cash and committments to purchase the school.

Community First has had dreams for some time now to transform the historic building on Western into a private school and community center.

Reverand Ron Lassiter was the first to speak out at the council meeting, "We come humbly not forceably. We are asking you to open this door for us, we would really appreciate it." He pleaded during public comments.

"We want to serve and help other people...we want to serve Topeka," he added.

Sandra Lassiter told the council she was treated in a disparaging manner. She didn't elaborate on who treated her that way. On that note her husband said he had concerns about the way the contract was wrapped up.

"We submitted everything at 2:50PM on Friday by 3:30PM media had been notified and told we were already out of the deal." He was not specific as to what media outlets.

"I'm wondering if we are being treated differently, I'm asking that question," Sandra Lassister said.

One person with Community First questioned the "hurdles and obstacles presented to Community First." That person also spoke out asking if it was an issue of race or a punishment against some of those who have been controversial on the board of Community First.

13 News was told by City Spokesperson David Bevens afer 8PM on May 30th that Community First didn't have what was necessary to seal the deal for the building.

City Council member John Alcala demanded to City Manager Norton Bonaparte that the matter of inappropriate actions be looked into. It has been agreed that an ethics investigation into the way Sandra Lassiter was treated will be looked into.

It was asked to council by several members of council why Sumner School cannot just be given to Community First at no charge for their creation of a private school. Councilwoman Syliva Ortiz explained that it wasn't an option to give the school away because it had to be financially paid for by the city.

In the end an extension of 60 days was the request by Community First to the Topeka City Council. City Councilman John Alcala proposed a motion for a 60 day extension to be granted to Community First in their efforts be placed on Tuesday's agenda.

"I don't think 60 days is asking a lot," Alcala said. "I'd really like to look after 60 days into other options, but I make a motion for a 60 day extension."

That motion was seconded by Sylvia Oritiz.

It was contested that an extension cannot be given on a contract that is void. Council determined and confirmed by City Attorney Braxton Copley that a new contract would have to be drafted and the dates would just have to be changed to extend out 60 days, the wording of the contract would remain the same.

The argument presentend by Bonaparte is that there are two other agencies interested in the purchase of the building, altough it wasn't said what entities those are.

Councilwoman Deborah Swank raised concerns about not having enough information for a vote on the extension at Tuesday's meeting. That concern was also raised by several other concil members.

A motion to place the item on the agenda needed 6 votes to pass.

Voting Yes to vote on an extension Tuesday:
Harmon
Alcala
Ortiz
Blackburn

Voting No:
Woelfel
Swank
Harmon

Abstaining:
Haynes
Preisner

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that a work session at the end of next Tuesday's Council Meeting will be held to disucuss the possibility of an extension for Community First.


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