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Parkview price tag rises

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GINA R. HEINE
December 20, 2011
— A likely increase in the cost to consolidate Parkview School District's elementary schools through a referendum being rushed onto April's ballot gave board members pause Monday.

The board based its decision last month to close Newark and Footville elementary schools and seek a referendum to build classrooms at Orfordville Elementary on a preliminary estimate of $3.8 million from building contractor Ringland-Johnson.


Updated estimates for the project are coming in at $4.8 million to $6.2 million, and two contractors will make final bid presentations at a special board meeting Jan. 11.


The board voted 4-3 on Monday to amend last month's motion to a new dollar amount after next month's meeting.


The original $3.8 million estimate did not include items such as a parking lot and only included a one-station gym as opposed to the three-station gym the board is seeking.


Board member Craig Jones said he didn't know if he could support building a new gym, which would be used for high school sports, at that cost at the elementary school.


"I'd rather be another year out and have it right than rush into this thing," he said to some applause from the audience.


But the district would still be stuck with budget issues—operating at excess capacity in the elementary grades—in addition to a projected deficit next year of $500,000, Superintendent Steve Lutzke said.


"I know the longer we sit and don't take any action, we're just spending money that we don't need to spend with three schools," he said.


Jones said his count of classrooms in the proposed project left him wondering if all the proposed construction is needed if enrollment declines more than expected.


"If we overbuild this elementary building, we'd look pretty ridiculous," he said.


Other board members expressed concerns or support for the plan:


-- Elizabeth Brockwell: "I don't want to go to taxpayers and ask them for money for a building that's eventually going to sit vacant. (It's a) waste of money if we can't utilize what we've built."


-- Eric Stelter: "We made a decision, we need to move forward. We can't waiver. We go to referendum, the community will tell us what it is we need to do. ... It's the best option we have."


-- Ed Bell: "What I've heard from talking to people in both buildings, all three buildings, there's more support for this than anything we've had in the past. I'd hate to lose this now. ... We didn't have any of that kind of support for other plans."


-- Clay Hammes: "I'll add that the motion that was passed previously put us in a position where we have to spend money that we don't need to spend in the first place. Now that dollar amount has gone up. I just don't see that as a positive either."


-- Troy Knudson: The district could be more efficient because of the duplicate staff it now has among the elementary schools. If the referendum fails, the board said it would add portable classrooms to Orfordville.


One of the nice things about portable classrooms, he said, is they can be removed if enrollment goes down, a point many in the room questioned the reality of happening.


-- On the issue of portable classrooms, board member Terry Gerber said: "I don't want that. ...If that's the decision of the board, to go forward with this referendum, I'll talk up the referendum all I can to pass this thing, because I don't want our kids, the legacy of this board right now, saying we stuck our kids in relocateable classrooms."


On Jan. 11, the board plans to hear bid presentations from building contractors J.P. Cullen & Sons and Ringland-Johnson and vote on selecting a firm for the project.


HOW THEY VOTED

The board on Monday approved a motion to amend last month's approved motion to a new dollar amount to be set after the board hears bid presentations from J.P. Cullen & Sons and Ringland-Johnson on Jan. 11.


The original motion called for closing Newark and Footville schools by asking voters in a referendum for about $3.8 million to make permanent additions to Orfordville Elementary, and if the referendum fails, build eight portable classrooms at Orfordville:


Voting 'Yes' were Ed Bell, Elizabeth Brockwell, Troy Knudson and Eric Stelter; Voting 'No' were Craig Jones, Terry Gerber and Clay Hammes. The motion passed, 4-3.



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