Issues with West Ishpeming School

A former area school will be knocked down in a few days.

So what’ll happen to the land?

And have neighbors’ environmental concerns been addressed?

The West Ishpeming School operated as a school from 1916 to 1986.

Don Meyer lives in Ishpeming Township, three blocks from the school.

He went to school there for 4 years back in the ’70s.

Meyer says he remembers the wooden staircase and banister, as well as the new coat of varnish on the hardwood floor at the start of every school year.

He says the kids used to be frightened somewhat of having to clamber down the metal fire escapes every time the school had a fire drill.

But the roof caved in some time ago, and the building also contains hazardous chemicals like asbestos, lead paint and mercury.

Marquette County foreclosed on the property 6 months ago for unpaid taxes.

County Treasurer Ann Giroux is the chair of the Marquette County Land Bank Authority, which now owns the school property since it’s been through foreclosure.

She says the demolition process has gone as fast as it has because they didn’t want to risk leaving the school standing for another winter and expose it to more damage.

The demolition is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Giroux says it was pushed back because of mechanical problems with some of the equipment on site.

But a neighbor of the school who declined to speak with us on camera told us that wasn’t the real reason.

He says there have been permitting issues in dealing with the chemicals inside the doors.

And he also says there’s another potential issue outside that may never have been checked out.

A century ago, builders used to mix asbestos into their mortar to help bricks bond better.

He says no one has tested the building’s mortar to see if there’s asbestos in it.

Marquette County Habitat for Humanity would like to buy the property from the Land Bank as a future site of Habitat homes.

But for that to happen, Habitat executive director Mike Shimon says someone has to be on Habitat’s waiting list who wants to live there.

Right now, no one is.

We’ll continue following this story and we’ll have more about it for you in the near future as it becomes available.