Plans continue by Smyth County Schools to demolish most of the former Marion Intermediate School, but asbestos abatement must first take place.
At this month’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dennis Carter said that the school system is expected to apply for a Brownfields grant to remove the asbestos. Other funding through the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief fund and operational budget will be used toward demolition and remodeling the gymnasium.
The ESSER is federal money for helping school systems to navigate the pandemic.
ESSER money for Smyth County Schools is available in three pots: ESSER 1 ($1.1M for PPE for staff and students, cleaning supplies, etc.); ESSER 2 ($4.2M for capital improvement projects such as roofing and HVAC); and ESSER 3 ($9.5M with 20% on instructional loss - $1.9M – and the rest on additional capital improvement projects).
People are also reading…
The school board wants to retain the gym for youth programs in the county. Gymnasium space is limited for youth programs outside the school system.
Marion Intermediate closed in 2013 and students were divided among Marion Elementary, the new Oak Point Elementary and Marion Middle schools. Marion Mayor David Helms, who spent part of his early years in education in Smyth at the intermediate school before moving to the primary school, said he believes the building opened for the first students in 1955.
The firm of 5 Design LLC will be doing the architectural work on demolishing the school building and renovating the gymnasium with Prosim handling the engineering work through 5 Design LLC. The area not encompassed by the gym is anticipated to be parking space.
The board in February approved bids for term contracts for architect and engineering services for the school system renewing 5 Design, LLC, Thompson & Litton, and The Lane Group with for up to three consecutive years.
Vince Maiden, Brownfields Program coordinator with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said Carter had asked for possible assistance in getting the asbestos in the old building removed and he informed him of available grants through the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund.
VBAF provides grants or loans to local governments to promote restoration and redevelopment of brownfield sites and to address environmental problems or obstacles to reuse so these sites can be effectively marketed to new economic development prospects.
The first grant, for remediation in the amount of $120,000, is competitive, Maiden said. Deadline for application is May 15.
Another grant of $50,000 is available on a regular basis.
Maiden said the school board could apply for either grant, but only one at a time. If the larger grant was applied for and not awarded then the board could apply for the smaller grant though it might not cover the entire cost of asbestos abatement.
The Environmental Protection Agency in 2018 announced $2.4M in brownfields grants for Virginia.
Southwest Virginia is benefiting from a portion of that money for environmental assessments. Virginia communities will use this funding to explore ideas on how properties can be cleaned up and returned to productive use.
Saltville is seeking a brownfields grant to clean up and repurpose the old town shop site near the well fields and Chilhowie was awarded a grant to help with demolition of the former Superior Mills building on Highway 11 as part of the downtown revitalization project.