By Rosemary K. Otzman
Van Buren Public Schools Supt. Michael Van Tassel closed Owen Intermediate School for Wednesday, March 20, because a gas pipe line was scheduled to be tested near the school.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Belleville City Manager Diana Kollmeyer said she asked Enbridge Energy Company about the test, since they offered to put nearby residents in a hotel for the day.
She said they told her that during the eight-hour test they would be blowing out the pipeline with water and there wouldn’t be an explosion, but noise was an issue.
On Monday, Supt. Van Tassel sent out a letter to parents of Owen students to explain his decision to cancel school on Wednesday. Actually, the school was scheduled for half a day, with conferences in the afternoon.
He said the school district was informed that Enbridge Energy Company, out of Wisconsin, would be hydro testing a gas line near Owen school on March 20 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The gas line in question is in front of Owen and about 50 feet away from the bus pick-up and drop-off area. While Enbridge did not initially contact the district, residents in the area were notified and given the opportunity to spend the night in a local hotel, if they so desired, Van Tassel wrote.
“Enbridge has stated there is no immediate danger, yet they have offered residents near this line alternative housing during the testing.
“Given the company’s offer to residents, I must question the ability for Enbridge to provide a safe environment for our students,” Van Tassel wrote to parents.
“I hope you can appreciate the compromising situation the school district has been put in and that you are supportive of our attempts to put student safety first. Since the gas line testing will not be completed until 4 p.m., afternoon conferences will also have to be cancelled.
“Thursday afternoon and evening conferences will still be held as planned,” he told the parents.
“On behalf of Van Buren Public Schools, I apologize for the inconvenience cancelling school Wednesday will cause, but I believe that given the circumstances, it is the best decision for the students and staff at Owen Intermediate School,” he concluded, thanking parents for their continued support.
By Rosemary K. Otzman