Alumni bring school back to life

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August 14, 2010 - 12:00 AM

KINCAID — Carrying meals at noon Wednesday to tables at Kincaid’s new nutrition site in the school building that served the community for 70 years is nothing new for Allen Ward. The chore was one he’d done more times than he could remember while working more than 30 years in cafeterias at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

THE DREAM to reopen the school — built as a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s and closed five years ago when students were transferred to Colony — for community use grew legs in February, when a handful of Kincaid boosters gathered to consider what could be done.
Ann and Jack Donaldson were among the most vocal, and got an immediate recruit in Leonard Leadstrom, who is not a graduate of KHS as they are, but in recent years has been a Kincaid councilman.
That first knot of supporters boasted that they could raise enough money to retire back property taxes incurred by an out-of-state owner whose interest in the building waned when plans for a boys home hit the skids.
They weren’t mistaken.
The group met several times, with support growing each session, and soon money started flowing in, enough to pay the $6,400 tax bill.
“We went to the (Anderson) county commissioners and they rebated $4,400 of the payment,” said Leadstrom.
The excess went into a fund that has grown to more than $20,000, waiting in the bank to match an anticipated U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant.
“We asked for $80,000 to build an elevator — not a pricey one — and do other things so we can have a community center and library in the school,” Leadstrom said.
Sporting an exaggerated grin, he delights in showing visitors through, although there’s not a great deal to see just yet.
“This really is quite a building,” Leadstrom said. “You could have school here again with about two weeks of work. About all it really needs is a little paint.”
City Hall moved into the building on Monday — it’s open three days a week — and Susan White, who directs congregate meals, started serving Aug. 2.
“The first week we kind of camped out at the school,” said White, before amenities were in place.
Noted Leadstrom, “We’re going to use the gymnasium for basketball, have plans for flag football and there’s an asphalt track out there (west of the school) that can be used for walking as soon as we uncover it.” Inattention has permitted grass to overgrow the track.
A semi-green approach to heating will be taken on come winter, when a diesel-fired heating system would gobble up too much money during cold weather. In-stead, Leadstrom said, a mix of diesel and reclaimed cooking oil will be used to keep City Clerk Lisa Vincel and anyone else who ventures into the converted school warm.

“IT’S BEEN a little hectic getting started,” Vincel observed, “particularly when the telephone people were in here. But, it’s starting to settle down and I think it’s all going to work out nicely.”
The city of Kincaid took title of the building from the previous owner, businessman Kelly Buchanan of St. George, Utah, who agreed to pass it along in exchange for being released from paying the property tax bill. Kincaid, in turn, leased the building to the alumni group for $1, said Vincel, in her fifth year as city clerk for the town of 125.
“That’s $1 for 25 years” use, Leadstrom quickly noted.
The city, in turn, leases space for City Hall from the group for $225 a month, which all involved think will be sufficient to meet utility payments.

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