According to the Department of the Interior, the dormitory com￾plex on Kelly Road in Magdalena cost $331,000 to build. It will cost over $3 million to remove the asbestos and tear down.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain


The condemned complex of dormitories and apartments once operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Kelly Road, creating not only an eyesore but a public health hazard, may be a thing of the past if funding from a federal grant goes through.

At its regularly scheduled meeting last week the Magdalena Village Board of Trustees approved a request by Mayor Richard Rumpf to apply for the grant through the Environmental protection Agency.

The BIA dorms, administrator living quarters, and other buildings were built in the early-to-mid ‘60s, and have been vacant since 1986. The expense of removing asbestos insulation and tiles have been the main problem with getting any use out of the complex.

A previous BIA school at Alamo was built in the 1930s but closed in 1941. Children from Alamo were sent to boarding schools off the reservation in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and other distant places. In 1957, the BIA dormitory was put into operation in Magdalena and approximately 128 children were boarded there and attended Magdalena public schools.

The opening of the Alamo Navajo Community School eliminated the need for the 35-mile bus ride to and from Magdalena and the need to house children in the BIA dormitories.

Once the BIA turned ownership of the complex over to the Magdalena village government multiple attempts have been made to repurpose the complex but the presence of lead-based paint and asbestos insulation proved too costly.

“We’ve been working with Rebecca Cook at the Environmental Department in Santa Fe,” Rumpf said. “She was down here last month. She looked at the property and I called her a couple of days later and she said, ‘We need to get this done.’”

The cost estimate is in the vicinity of $3.2 million.

All the paperwork is done and in, Rumpf said on Monday. “We should hear something as early as July.”

Rumpf has been assured all contaminated material will be removed before demolishing.

“After that, all the concrete, cement blocks, the foundations, the floors will be crushed,” he said. “They’ll bring in a crushing unit and make gravel out of it, and the village would have that for graveling dirt streets. They’ll also bring in what they call a tough grinder. It’s a huge grinder and they’ll run all the material from the buildings through it to be crushed. It minimizes the amount of landfill usage.”

He said the removed asbestos will be trucked to a certified site in Mountainair.

The work would be carried out by Brownfields Asbestos Abatement Grant.

“From start to finish, they’re estimating about 14 months to complete,” Rumpf said.