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Letter to the Henry County Board
Regarding College Square:

Submitted by Rhonda Rusk.


This letter is to request you and the other members of the Henry County Board to reconsider your decision of turning a portion of College Square Park into parking for the county. We are respectfully requesting that you rework the inter-governmental agreement between the Village of Cambridge and Henry County to allow our park to remain whole and under the ownership of the Village.

College Square is a historic piece of land that our county’s founding fathers felt would serve the educational needs of the children of the seat of justice.

We have done an enormous amount of research on the history of College Square and have uncovered a great deal of information regarding this property. Its first purpose in 1843 was to hold the building that became the first Cambridge school. It continued to be the center of formal education for the children of Cambridge until 1968, and continues to be a place for educational activities to this day.

Over the past 157 years, there have been several elections held regarding College Square. The majority of the legal voters voted College Square to be a schoolhouse site on more than one occasion. In 1906, Cambridge School Board records show that a special meeting was called to ensure College Square was documented to be school property. This meeting was held after an election that voted College Square to be a school house site and after another election voting to issue bonds to build a school on the “site owned by said district.”

Those same school board minutes refer to the ordinances and legislation of the day as well as a reference to having done everything legally necessary to meet the requirements to issue bonds for the school. The school district would never have received bonds to build a new school without proof of ownership. The school district issued bonds on this property at least four different times.

On April 25, 2002, the Cambridge School board acknowledge that they had an interest in the property, but did not wish to expend any monies for litigation. The school issued a quit claim deed to the Village, which gave all of the school district’s rights and interests in the property to the Village of Cambridge.

At the last Cambridge Village Board meeting, I asked the Village to ask you, the County, to reconsider the design of the parking area to allow the park to remain intact.

The Village Board has repeatedly given those present at their meetings the impression that if the Village does not agree to the proposed inter-governmental agreement, the County would take the property known as College Square and the citizens of Cambridge would not longer have a park.

During public meetings, the Village Board has made statements that they have no choice in this situation. They have given the impression that this was the only settlement the County would agree to and that gaining 80% ownership of the park was the best deal the County would allow.

In speaking with several members of the County Board, we have been given the impression that this inter-governmental agreement was passed by the county board as it was presented to the County Board as something the citizens of Cambridge wanted. Let this letter serve as notice that this is not something the majority of the citizens want. We have many unanswered questions in the working out of this agreement, and they can remain unanswered as long as our park is left intact.

We have petitions that have 316 signatures of concerned citizens that signed the petition at local businesses. We have not gone door to door with the petition, but if we need to, we know we can gather even more signatures. We have people who are willing to canvas other areas of the county to show that Cambridge is supported by the citizens of Henry County when we ask you to leave the park intact.

Our request is simply to extend the parking area to include only the existing parking strip at College Square so it will not interfere with the ball field. This is not a drastic change according the formal plans dated January 2002, we saw at the Village Board meeting April 29, 2002. This new design would only eliminate 15-16 parking spaces. We have heard many other feasible ideas to gain parking at the Courthouse and would be happy to share them with you if you would like.

Please consider adjusting this inter-government agreement. The County really is not losing anything by doing so, in fact, you could gain some very positive press by re-addressing this plan.

The property has been a part of Cambridge for 157 years and the County has never made a single expenditure on it. The County is still coming out ahead, you will have gained the parking area through Main Street as well as the property outside of the Village at no cost.

Please, reconsider this agreement and let the children and citizens of Cambridge keep their park whole.

We appreciate your time in considering this matter.


Cat White and Rhonda Swanson Rusk