Meriwether School

The old Meriwether School building is ready for demolition. They are looking to have the lot cleared by July. Photo by Stan Schwartz

Building should be demolished soon

LOUISIANA—Contractors recently finished removing all the asbestos from the old elementary school building, which sits along Hwy. 54 just before the main intersection with 3rd Street.

Currently, said Louisiana R-II Superintendent Todd Smith, the school is seeking bids to demolish the rest of the building and haul away the debris. It took the contractors about a month to get all the asbestos out of the Meriwether building, Smith added, because it was everywhere.

“Asbestos abatement is its own animal, that’s for sure,” he said. “There was asbestos in the glue that held the chalkboards to the wall, the glaze in the glass, the tar on the roof. Many of the floor tiles were held with adhesive that had asbestos or were made with asbestos. We had a boiler that was completely wrapped in asbestos.”

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in heat resistant materials for years. Many buildings were originally built using this material. It wasn’t until years later that scientists learned that prolonged exposure to asbestos could cause cancer. Now it takes certified contractors to remove the material from buildings to prevent the asbestos from becoming airborne.

Although the old elementary school was no longer being used as a school, the site could not be renovated until the asbestos was removed.

“That’s why so many old buildings are going into ruin,” Smith said. “The cost to abate the asbestos was right around $92,000,” he added. “Now we’re looking at the cost of demolition. Those bids come in April 1.”

He noted that the school district could have sold the building, as is. “But we didn’t want to see another school building dragging the city down,” he explained. The old middle school, which sits adjacent to the elementary school property was sold to the city years ago. “And now the city is stuck with it,” he said.

“We felt that as responsible members of the community and to be a good neighbor, we should take care of our own footprint,” he said. “The idea of abating it properly and taking it down is best for the city.”

The city school district ran a bond issue three years ago. Part of that money was to construct a new bus barn, Smith said, and demolish the old one. “At that point we were using that Meriwether building for our bus garage. That’s where the funds are coming from to take it down.”

The land for the school was donated by the Meriwether family, who lived in the Louisiana area at the time. Smith said there used to be a crosswalk that went over Hwy. 54.

“My wife went there for elementary school,” he said. “We’re hearing from lot of people as things change down there.”

The space would make for good commercial property, he noted.

“That was one of our thoughts, as well; to give the city a good space for economic development,” Smith said.

Monday, the school board had a mandatory meeting and walk through of the building to pick a contractor from the bids they received.

“We’re going to have sealed bids by April 1,” he added. Once that is done, the sealed bids would be opened and another special school board meeting would be held to pick a bid.

He said it should take about 10 weeks to demo the building and remove the debris.

“Our target is to have it all done and flat by July 1,” he said. “We could have sold it to someone for $1 and walked away, but we’re very proud of doing the responsible thing for the city.”

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