OTSU, Shiga Pref. – Five residents of Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, sued their mayor Tuesday in a bid to stop him from funding the construction of a new school building and to ensure that the old structure he tried earlier to demolish will continue to be used.
In the suit filed with the Otsu District Court, the five argued that it is illegal for the town not to use the old art deco school that Mayor Wasaburo Ono said in December would not be destroyed, as was planned earlier.
The suit is the latest development in the effort by Toyosato residents to preserve the old school. A widely publicized standoff between locals and demolition workers in December led Ono to scrap the town’s original plan. The standoff intensified because residents managed to get a court injunction issued to halt the demolition.
Ono said the school would be preserved but added he would proceed with construction of the new building because he considered the old structure at risk in a major earthquake.
According to documents filed with the court, the town assembly approved a budget in September to fund construction of the new Toyosato Elementary School building on the assumption that the historic building would be razed.
The decision to preserve the 66-year-old building, designed by U.S. architect William Merrell Vories, while proceeding with the construction of the new one deviates from the original plan, the plaintiffs claim in the documents.
They say the town has continued to pay for the construction according to the original contract, despite the need for new estimates due to the changes in the plan and for assembly approval of a new budget, adding it violates the Local Autonomy Law.
They also argued that Ono’s plan to preserve the building, which was built in 1937, but not use it for classes would be a waste and is not fiscally justifiable. They contend that the plan violates the local finance law and the Cultural Properties Protection Law.
Since December, residents have sought to recall the mayor over the dispute, which has pitted locals against each other. A referendum on whether Ono should be booted from office will be held Sunday.
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