News

Board OKs bond issue;

will be on May ballot

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Shoot for the moon - that was the consensus of the Enumclaw School Board as it opted to put a $42.9 million bond before voters in May at a special meeting Monday night.

Monday's meeting was the final installment in three Monday's worth of deliberations on the topic of building a new J.J. Smith Elementary School, revamping an aging Byron Kibler Elementary School and fixing and renovating a host of other problems on ailing district schools.

Discussion a week ago was sprinkled with words like "agonizing," "difficult," "much needed," and "safety and education first."

"The number is big, bigger than we've ever passed," said board member Andrew Willner during the three-hour marathon of conversation March 24. The board's Monday night decision to put the issue on the ballot was a much quicker and smoother process.

The hardest part will be convincing voters in a brief seven-week period. The bond goes on the May 20 ballot.

The board is still haunted by the district's 1997 $32 million bond which built Thunder Mountain and updated other facilities in the district. It took many tries and evolved into a number of different forms before voters approved it.

If approved by voters, the bond will cover approximately $52 million worth of projects. The district expects to receive $9 million from the state in matching funds.

This bond, advocates point out, has something for every school.

Kibler work will include demolishing and rebuilding the west wing. modernizing the 100 building and constructing a new covered play structure and street frontage.

A new J.J. Smith would be built on 15.5 acres on the back side of Thunder Mountain on district-owned property with access from 424th. Eventually the old J.J. property would be sold. That money would go into the capital fund and can only be used to pay off debt or spend on capital projects.

Enumclaw Middle School would get a new 50-year metal roof and handicap accessible bathrooms, carpet, a new clock and intercom system, heating system, fire alarm system, upgraded track and paved bus drop-off.

EHS would only get a portion of its wish list including a modernization of its 1961 200 building, revamping of the 300 building, a music addition, a science wing, bus loop and maybe some work at the library.

Westwood will get the remainder of its modernization.

McDougall, the street which runs from Semanski Street to 244th, would receive major upgrades.

Black Diamond Elementary would be modernized. Also on the list is some utility infrastructure upgrades and work at the transportation area.

The board went into its March 24 special meeting with the concept that about $32 million would cover most of the work originally outlined, but were informed architects' estimating the work failed to include 40 percent for project management costs which escalated the board's first look at the proposal, adding millions of more dollars.

The difference, the board noted, between $32 million and $42 million is 15 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. So on a $200,000 home it was $30 a year, approximately 75 cents a week, to cover the difference.

But in the end, the deciding factor was the time is ripe to build. The economy currently is providing favorable interest rates and a good bid climate, to wait, district officials say, could mean even higher costs.

The board also took comfort in the fact that it will stay within the total dollar package, for all bonds and levies, promised taxpayers - approximately $5.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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