Lead levels limit Baraga armory access

BARAGA – In the past, said Baraga Village Manager LeAnne LeClaire, the Baraga Armory has been a great community resource, with its gym rented out for wedding receptions, youth basketball and more.

Currently, however, the armory is one of more than two dozen in Michigan that have restricted public access after lead levels tested high due to residue from old indoor firing ranges.

According to an article published by WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, the restrictions are largely due to the guard changing their standards from commercial to residential in September.

While Guard soldiers continue to work and train in the buildings while cleanup is underway, civilians are largely being kept out of the buildings. A Daily Mining Gazette reporter seeking access to the Baraga Armory was told no civilians are allowed in at this time without special authorization.

A Guard spokeswoman quoted in the WOOD-TV article said risks to soldiers were minimal, but the Guard is offering optional medical monitoring for soldiers.

LeClaire said she hadn’t been aware of the lead issue. She did know the National Guard was considering pulling out, but no one from the Guard had been in contact with the village regarding the building’s future.

Assuming the lead issue doesn’t require expensive remediation, “we would like to show an interest in the building, to have our offices there,” she said.

Baraga County leaders at Monday’s meeting said Baraga Township, Bay Ambulance and other groups have also expressed an interest in the Armory, and the likely scenario would be two or more groups sharing the large building.