City of Mullinville to take on giant grant project to build community business incubator

Edward J. Naughton
Kiowa County Signal
Shari Hall, Tom Daniels (council president), Andy Kimble (mayor), and Dee McDonald lead Mullinville city discussions on the plan to fix the old high school building in town.
The front of the Mullinville High School that was damaged in March this year by a storm.

Jonathan Clayton is a Mullinville resident and happens to also work for the Kansas Department of Commerce. He is leading the charge in Mullinville to hopefully accomplish something very difficult very soon - accomplish the grant funding approvals needed to eventually repair and renovate the old rural high school which has been part and parcel of the Mullinville landscape for over 100 years. The building holds special memories for generations of Mullinville community residents and their families, including Clayton.

On September 29, the city of Mullinville convened a special meeting at city hall to inform the public about recent Mullinville Recreation Commission activities aimed at helping fund repairs to the old high school that was damaged in a storm earlier this year.

The building as it stands now was discussed at length by those present as they considered the vision for its future use, the current status, and ongoing concerns. The roof is still compromised in a state of disrepair since March 12, 2021, when a microburst or heavy down-force wind destroyed the roof of the former Mullinville High School. This storm damage triggered the building's closure, shutting down the Old School Antique Mall. The building is under the ownership of the Mullinville Recreation Commission. 

Wind and rain insertions into the building continue to date related to the roof damage that resulted from the storm in March. Dedicated volunteers are working feverishly when rain happens to clean up the water entering the building and the mess, as quickly as possible, and as soon as it happens, even if they work in the middle of the night as frequently happens. 

Probably the most important piece of this repair and renovation puzzle for the old Mullinville high school which is being bravely attempted to be put together by all parties concerned is submitting a good application to the Kansas Department of Commerce for Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds under the urgent needs category on behalf of the Mullinville Recreation Commission.

Repair costs are estimated at $815,877 to complete. A grant is the only option of payment. Once the city of Mullinville approved the pursuit of the application, the grant required the procurement of an engineer to determine a scope of work and estimate of repair. The engineering firm reported that in order to successfully repair the building and meet the grant requirements, the scope of work estimated over $815,000, as indicated.

The Mullinville Community Foundation was formed in May 2021, following the storm on March 12, 2021, with a goal of raising funds toward the high school repair. 

In August 2021, the Mullinville Community Foundation applied to the USDA for a large grant totaling $738,000, of which Rural Development RISE grant $132,000 is dedicated towards the high school repair project.

Additionally, the Patterson Family Foundation committed $283,000 towards the high school repair though of course this approval is totally dependent on all other grants being finally approved.

These funds combined would provide the match needed to the state.

After a decision is made, the Mullinville Community Foundation would then take donated proceeds they have collected and apply them to project needs to make the picture complete.

"Just today, September 29, I received notice that we achieved 501-3c certification with the IRS for charitable contributions to the Mullinville Community Foundation," Clayton said.

At the city meeting, open discussions were held freely by those in attendance. The city council and the Mullinville Recreation Commission members present heard concerns about the frequency of cleaning operations that take place in the old high school that now continue as volunteers respond to rain and wind events. 

The volunteers themselves in attendance at the meeting are doing the work necessary now to keep the building clean as possible and free of standing water. They were thanked for their constant devotion to duty without pay. 

Frequently volunteers come in after a rainstorm with floor cleaning equipment and buckets and brooms in hand, because the water that enters the building with the ensuing mold formation does harm to the structure.

The issue of sustainability was brought forth by Mullinville council president, Tom Daniels, who was wondering about the following problematic scenario that could develop and present a financial challenge to the city because of high insurance cost in the aftermath of construction - even if everything construction-wise went according to plan.

Daniels said that even if everything applied for in terms of grants are approved, donations tabulated, bids  made, and then reconstruction and repairs are finally done - that sustainability especially because of high insurance costs must be considered seriously.

Daniels said he is in favor of everything that the Mullinville Recreation Commission is advocating for with this project, as are city council members and the mayor of Mullinville too, but still he ventured that if the building is finally repaired and almost completely ready for occupancy by prospective tenants - would the Mullinville recreation commission or whoever was charged with the building's maintenance and coverage still be able to foot the monthly insurance bill that would follow its grand opening?

As discussed in the meeting, the insurance costs by local estimates would be at least $15,000 monthly for the high school building once repairs are completed, which would need to be covered against accident or loss due to severe weather or other disaster.

"The winter season is coming soon and that is a concern obviously," Clayton said.

Expected construction and repair aspects include the following: 

   -  removal and disposal of the existing roof as required.

   -  gutter, downspout hangers and other materials.

   -  compromised interior materials.

   -  compromised brick and coping.

   -  installation of new nailers, new purlin, ceiling web bracing.

    -  1" total depth new roof decking.

     -  R30 insulation.

     -  coverboard.

     -  tapered insulation. 

     -  new roof membrane, flashing, gutter, downspout, downspout elbow.

     -  reset brick and matching cap.

     -  architecture design.

     -  construction administration and inspection.

     -  grant administration and environmental review.

Clayton said that the cost of professional mold remediation would be high, as much as $200,000 possibly, but he is hopeful that with the ongoing efforts of volunteers who have logged in over 400 hours of documented volunteer time doing clean-up and conducting mold prevention measures in their work, he remains optimistic that cost of professional mold remediation would likely be cut in half.

The Mullinville Community Foundation’s grant request of $738,000 included many other items to assist the community. One of the major needs always lacking in and around Kiowa County is daycare - to help facilitate this need, a large portion of the grant request would help provide a daycare in some form at the former grade school. 

Additionally, the business incubator that was approved by the City of Mullinville will provide incentives to potential renters, including renovation reimbursements, free Wi-Fi for 3 years, and cash registers and computers for its tenants. The grant also requested repairs for the grade school, including the repair of the roof and a new handicap-accessible front door. Salaries were also considered for daycare positions and a building manager position, as well as an open internet, shared co-working space and coffee shop in the high school. Haviland Telephone has pledged Fiber connection to both buildings if the grants are realized. 

Letters of support for the Mullinville Community Foundation’s grant were received from Governor Laura Kelly, Senator Jerry Moran, and Senator Roger Marshall. Also U.S. Representative, 4th district, Ron Estes, and the Kiowa County Commissioners, as well as dozens of local community members and citizens countywide have voiced support for this important project.