By Mike Williscraft
The site on Hwy. 8 for the new super secondary school is fully remediated and ready for construction, according to the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN).
The project has been fraught with financial issues in its early stages with remediation going well over its initial $5.2 million budget to his $17.4 million.
As well, plans for a theatre component have been temporarily set aside due to shortfalls on financing and fundraising for the $6.3 million feature.
Many concerns about the school site’s history as a brick yard and years of taking unknown fill to level the land have persisted, but Kim Sweeney, DSBN’s chief communications officer said the site is ready to go.
“As per the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Park’s approved work plan with the District School Board of Niagara, during the 18-month remediation project well over 200 samples of soil material were collected, analyzed, and at various stages, reported to the Ministry for their review and comment,” said Sweeney as part of an ongoing email dialogue.
“In addition, over 20 samples of ground water were collected and analyzed — we can confirm there were no impacts to the local ground water.”
Sweeney noted that the majority of material cleared from the site was construction remnants.
“The contaminants reported were shredded construction/demolition debris, consisting of 80 per cent wood fibre,” said Sweeney, who added the environmental consultant on the job was WSP Group
The ground water is a concern for Lincoln resident Bob Thompson, among others, who noted the site has an unusual feature for land which has no impacts on ground water.
Thompson added that he has been waiting weeks for answers to a series of inquiries.
“I am still waiting for any answers from one superintendent and a response to another email to my trustee,” said Thompson.
“About the time I emailed the trustee there was what looked like a black membrane put down on the east slope of the excavation. It has now been covered by gravel. That would be an unusual step.”
Sweeney said the membrane is a prevention step.
The black membrane you have noticed at the West Niagara Secondary School site is called a geotextile membrane separation process,” said Sweeney.
“It ensures no contaminants will leach back on to the West Niagara Secondary School site from the adjacent properties.”
Thompson questioned why such a precaution would be necessary. If ground water contamination and no liquid impacts from fill were found, why would a membrane of any sort be required at all?
There has been misinformation or no information circulating on the site itself and what was acquired by DSBN in January 2019.
DSBN bought the land – at 18.509 acres – at 4670 Durham Road from Angie Sgambelluri for $1.465 million. The land had an assessed value of $763,000 based on Jan. 1, 2016’s assessment. As well, a 20.095-acre lot fronting on Hwy. 8 was also purchased for $3.534 million. This land had a 2016 assessed value of $1,724,000.
The sales were completed on Jan. 30, 2019.
A 750-seat theatre which was planned to be part of the build from the outset has been delayed pending a renewed fundraising program.
At its meeting on March 1, Lincoln’s Committee of the Whole endorsed a long-term, multi-year contribution to the theatre committing $200,000.
In return the Town, through a service agreement, will get defined and specific access to recreation and cultural amenities in partnership with the DSBN, as well as a commitment to work together on the future of the Beamsville District Secondary School site.
The future West Niagara Secondary School principal has been making the rounds to municipal councils promoting the new facility and the theatre fundraising program.
DSBN needs to raise $2.4 million to make the theatre happen.
Initially, the entire $6.8 million cost was going to fundraised for both the theatre and a greenhouse feature with interior and exterior classrooms. This
was revised down to $2.4 for the theatre with use of DSBN’s accumulated surplus to support the remainder of costs.
“The 750-seat theatre will have great benefits for students and the community. We already have letters of support from community members outlining their views on the benefits to them,” said Sweeney.
“Our WNSS Theatre Fundraising Committee has started working on this project, and we feel very positive that the theatre will be approved by the Ministry of Education.
The rest of the build remains unchanged from original plans.