Harrisburg leaders consider environmental study of old middle sc - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Harrisburg leaders consider environmental study of old middle school

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HARRISBURG, Ill. -- Neighbors call it an eyesore and Harrisburg city leaders want to get rid of it.

The old Harrisburg Junior High building has sat vacant for more than a year now and the mayor says it has become a safe haven for drug users.

Mary Hale has lived across the street from the old Harrisburg Junior High school building for most of her life.

"It was a nice-looking building at the beginning and then when the school stopped...it basically just started deteriorating after all those years," Hale said.

The building became a Christian school after the middle school moved out-- and then a couple moved in and lived there.  

Harrisburg Mayor John McPeek said they were evicted a year and a-half ago after the EPA discovered they were raising and selling farm animals illegally.

Hale wants to see the city tear it down.

"I always thought it'd be better just to have it torn down instead of just falling apart like it is," Hale said.

McPeek agrees.

"It's just a bad eyesore and it needs to come down," McPeek said.

There's broken windows everywhere and asbestos inside the building.

McPeek said the city plans to pay a company $16,000 to inspect the building, including some work they've already done.

"They found more things in there that are a detriment to the safety of the people that go in there," McPeek said. "No one needs to go in there."

He's referring to Histoplasmosis, an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus, typically found in pigeon droppings.

It can lead to organ infection, blindness and even death.

That's on top of the asbestos issues inside the building.

McPeek said the environmental company has to inspect it first before the city applies for grants to cover the cost of removing asbestos.

He said the city plans to tear the building down afterward but what happens after that hasn't been decided yet.  

"As long as the asbestos is out of there, we can do whatever," McPeek said.

McPeek said the city has to take it one step at a time.

Harrisburg city leaders also plan to correct flooding issues near the high school.

After renovations to the school, flooding became a concern for people living on the 900 block of South McKinley.

McPeek said he's heard several complaints from residents.

"On that particular part of McKinley Street there, when the water runs off the high school now, its running down a drain that runs through an alley onto McKinley," McPeek said. "Well, the drain isn't big enough to hold all the water."

The city council plans to discuss a study of the issue Thursday to figure out how to correct the situation.

McPeek estimates that study to take less than a month.

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