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The Buena Vista Board of Education discussed two major grants toward improving the district’s buildings during their regular meeting on Monday, October 24.

Katy Welter and Rick Bieterman of Watershed Inc., which acquired the old McGinnis Gym to preserve and refurbish the building, shared details for the Brownfields Cleanup Grant. Welter said the grant would fund the gym’s abatement (removal) and encapsulation of the asbestos and lead-based and lead-containing paint (LCP). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “brownfields” as properties whose expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Katy Welter of Watershed Inc. explains to the BV Board of Education the plan to apply for the U.S. EPA’s Brownfields Grant. Photo by Hannah Harn.

It’s a blighted historic asset at the heart of our elementary school campus and that’s why we want to save it,” Welter explained. “We have done extensive environmental and structural assessments which have given us a path to rehabilitation.”

Option one would be to do nothing, leaving the asbestos and lead-based and lead-containing paint where it is. Option two would involve abating the roof asbestos, lead-based paint, and any disturbed asbestos and lead-containing paint, while encapsulating any undisturbed asbestos and LCP.

Option three, the preferred plan, would include abating all interior and roof asbestos, lead-based paint, and any disturbed LCP, while encapsulating only undisturbed LCP.

“As I continue to learn more and more about the history and read more and more, I see it coming back to life as what it once was,” Bieterman said. He’s been managing the community engagement portion of their project. “It was the only place to gather for a long time, and I think of all the different user groups that are wanting in on a piece of it.”

Additional information about the U.S. EPA Brownfields Application and the Draft Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives are available on the Watershed, Inc. Facebook page. Questions to be included in the application can be submitted until November 3, 2022. Questions submitted after November 3 will be taken, but they may not be included in the final application.

The board also heard an update from Superintendent Lisa Yates on the Buell Grant, which will go toward the expansion and consolidation of the preschool. Yates explained that there is no restriction on what it can be spent on, just that it must be put toward the preschool.

Board member Brett Mitchell moved to approve the resolution to approve the use of the Buell grant money, to be expended by September 2023, with the motion carrying unanimously.

The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, November 14, 2022.

Meetings are held at the District Administration Building, located at 113 N. Court Street in Buena Vista. More information about the BV Board of Education, including meeting agendas and calendars, can be found on the board’s website.

Editor’s note: Follow this link for earlier Ark Valley Voice coverage of the purchase and planned renovation of McGinnis Gym.