Meeting mess

Have you ever attended a meeting where all that’s talked about is what should and shouldn’t be talked about at the meeting? That’s how environmental activist Kathy Milberg described a two-hour session she attended earlier this week with Detroit Public Schools officials. The meeting — so Milberg thought — was to focus on contaminated soil where the new Beard Elementary School is being built. Last month, News Hits reported that the site contains arsenic, lead and other toxic material, according to the Detroit Public Schools’ own documents. Milberg says she was supposed to chair the meeting and parents were invited to talk about the contamination and ways to ensure it is properly dealt with. But before the discussion began, Milberg says that about 10 DPS officials attempted to take over.

“I was particularly disturbed because they kept trying to prevent the state from talking,” says Milberg.

Also at the meeting was Pat Thornton, senior geologist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Thornton has been working with the DPS to ensure that the soil is tested for toxic material and that it is contained or removed.

“I was hoping to address some of the citizens’ concerns about the environmental problems,” says Thornton, who was prevented from speaking.

But Cleophus Boyd says he thought the meeting was to inform the public about the entire plan for Beard School, not just the environmental issue. Boyd is the project manager of community and corporate affairs for the DPS Program Management Team, which oversees construction of Beard and all capital improvements for the school district. He says that there are other issues such as traffic patterns, noise and shutting down the streets during construction that also need to be addressed.

“Those are not big issues,” says Raquel Brennan, who has two grandchildren who will be attending the new school. “We don’t want the school built on this property if it affects the health of the kids.”

Richard Schleyer, DPS Program Management Team environmental manager, says that the soil will be tested to ensure it is not contaminated before the school construction is completed.

Brennan and others say they won’t go away until they are sure it is done right.

The next meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on Oct. 16 at the old Beard Elementary School, 840 Waterman. What that meeting will focus on has yet to be determined.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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