Deal could give Bethel schools armory, land

BETHEL — An old National Guard armory building in Bethel is being turned over to the Lower Kuskokwim School District, and the district might also soon have rights to the land beneath it.

The city owns the land, but the building is owned by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The district uses the armory as a gym for two schools, and it’s one of the only gyms in Bethel.

Council members will craft an ordinance about either selling or leasing the land to the school district, and a public hearing will be scheduled, KYUK reported.

If the deal goes forward, it would allow the Lower Kuskokwim School District to continue to use the gym. The district “would, in turn, incur the liability of demolishing the building with all of its hazardous materials,” City manager Lee Foley said.

Officials have said the hazardous materials are safely in check, and the building probably has another 20 years of life in it.

One council member, Sharon Sigmund, was at first upset with the National Guard. “I find it very offensive that the National Guard can walk away, brush their hands off, and have no responsibility for what they are leaving on this land,” she said.

Others were more optimistic.

“I’m just thankful we came up with a solution. That’s where I’m coming from,” council member Mary Sattler said.

“As a parent of kids that go to Ayaprun Elitnaruvik (a Yup’ik immersion school), and as someone who hears from the public a lot about the need for a gym, especially for adult parks and recreation needs, I am thankful that this is a workable solution,” she said.

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