By Bradford Hall
I am concerned about the recent decision to sell Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School to Mt. Sinai Missionary Holiness Church, especially since a corporation for this body was formed only about one week ago. Moreover, it appears as if talks in the shade have taken place about the sale of this school.
On June 12, Kristopher Brooks of the Times Union penned an article titled Perhaps the end of Mary McLeod Bethune. In that article, Board member Paula Wright was quoted as saying, “‘My only concern is that if we bid it out, how long will it still be standing there?’” asked board member Paula Wright. ‘If an organization gets it for a thousand dollars and hopes to renovate it with grants and things, how long will that take? It’ll still be an eyesore.’”
On August 8, 2012, a bid was placed by Mt. Sinai Missionary Holiness Church and Marvin Holloway of Miami, Florida. The church bid $1,000 while Holloway bid $1751.
I find it quite interesting Paula Wright knew someone was going to bid $1,000 two months prior to a bid even taking place. Have any attempts to contact either of the bidders taken place?
Pursuing this further, on September 3, 2012, the Times-Union wrote “Because of ash contamination and vandalism, [Bethune] had no appraised value.”
According to records from the City of Jacksonville and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency state the property has been treated for contamination. In fact the first phase of the remedial action started in January 2010 and was completed December 2010 with the excavation of ash – contaminated soil for approximately 100 residential yards. The second phase was scheduled to start in early 2011 with excavation in the remaining contaminated properties.
I find it hard to believe that a school campus that has at least been 50% remediated of its contamination and has never been linked to any negative health concerns is worth $0.
Because Bethune has been designated a “Brownsfields” site, potential owners will receive a ton of financial and economic incentives while the taxpayers will only get $1,000 (not even enough to educate one child who lives in that school’s community).
Here is a link to find out more about the Brownsfields Redevelopment Program: http://www.coj.net/departments/planning-and-development/community-planning-division/brownfields-program.aspx.
Also, here is a document produced by the federal EPA that details the happenings concerning the contaminated soil at Bethune from the start to the present. Please note that on pages 70 and 71 of the document, a detailed cleanup plan is provided. http://www.coj.net/departments/neighborhoods/docs/environmental-quality/project-new-ground/appendix-b.aspx
It is very troubling that the school board chose to close both of these buildings without a plan as to what would be done with them after they were closed. The Bethune building has been an eye sore in the community it once served. Instead of providing a space for young minds to be educated the school board has provided a place for vandals and illegal activity to occur.
The district hasn’t released any information to the community as to what the Mount Sinai Missionary Holiness Church Inc. plans to do with the property.
This decision seems very questionable at least and it appears to be another DCPS decision that leaves the community feeling bamboozled.
On the backs of the taxpayers, any potential owner is getting a sweet deal. Moreover, it appears as if the School Board has engaged in conversation about the sale of this school without public notice or minutes. How much more corruption and disregard for the laws of this land have to occur within the Duval County School District before real investigative reporting begins?