Tuesday, February 13th, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
State offers $1.3 million to rebuild
FORT RECOVERY - The state is offering $1.3 million to Fort Recovery school district to help rebuild or renovate its existing high school building.
The school has less than two weeks - until Feb. 26 - to accept or reject the offer or defer the money for one year. The district has deferred state funding twice in recent years.
During a community engagement meeting Monday night, residents were informed of the deal, which was relayed from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (OSFC) to local school officials Thursday. The total amount of funds offered by the OSFC is calculated by the number of students projected to be attending the school in the next 10 years.
Monday's meeting was the fifth and possibly last in a series that brought together nearly 85 residents to discuss whether to accept the state funding, which includes specific state requirements, and to decide if renovation or replacement is the answer for the aging high school building. Portions of the building date back to 1935.
Superintendent David Riel said the group's final input will be relayed to school board members who ultimately must make the decision.
At the conclusion of Monday's meeting, residents were asked to vote anonymously among five proposed options. The projects range from the costliest at $11.9 million, which uses state money, to an $8.3 million plan using no state funds.
The votes were not yet tallied at press time.
District Treasurer Lori Koch said the most expensive option would require an 8.5- to 9.5-mill bond levy and tap $21.68 to $24.23 per month from a homeowner with a $100,000 home located within the village limits.
The least expensive project would require a 5.5- to 6.5-mill bond levy and cost the same homeowner $14.03 to $16.58 per month.
The last two options on the table would allow building renovations to be made as needed during a 30-year period, however, officials pointed out that cost estimates today likely will be much higher decades from now depending on new construction costs, safety/fire regulations and inflation.
All five options include renovations to the current high school building, with three options also including some demolition. An option to adjoin a new high school building to the existing elementary/middle school was ruled out in a survey answered by the community group in January. Residents overwhelmingly expressed their desire to keep younger students separated from older ones.
Riel, who said he personally favored housing pre-kindergarten through high school under one roof, voiced concerns about the last two options, which are 30-year projects with no demolition. Although they both preserve the history of the older building, they carry security and safety issues, he said.
"There are 47 exit doors to the facility right now. The state recommends two or three," he said. "How can we secure 47 doors?"
The cost of demolition, parking lots and other possible contingencies are included in the estimates, residents were told. The first three plans also include the salary for a state-selected construction manager to oversee the project.
Riel told the audience he believes the $1.3 million figure calculated by the OSFC is less than it should be because state officials based it on a projected decrease in enrollment of 69 students in the next 10 years. The school has not accepted that projection, and Riel said he plans to argue the number because enrollment continues to increase.
Independent consultant Nancy Meyer of Indianapolis, Ind., who was hired by the school, said she has her own opinion on which option she believes would be best for the district. But it's the community that must choose, she said.
"It's the community's project and their money. I may know in my head what I think is best, but it doesn't matter. I'm just here to give them the facts," she said.
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