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11-06-02: Parkway, Coldwater say yes
The Daily Standard

    Cheers rang out in the Mercer County Courthouse from about a dozen Parkway Local Schools officials and boosters after they learnedTuesday night that voters overwhelmingly supported a $36 million school construction project.
    About 30 minutes later, a contingent of Coldwater Exempted Village Schools supporters found out that a building issue there passed by a narrow margin.
    Parkway officials praised a community-led levy committee for getting information into the hands of district voters and for creating a unified spirit among the three towns that make up the district.
    "It was a very determined, very energetic group working together for Parkway," committee Treasurer Charyl Luth said. "We aren't three separate communities. We are one community that is the school district."
    The unofficial vote tally supported Parkway's apparent success in bringing voters in Willshire and Mendon on board with a plan to consolidate into a single building in Rockford. Voters in Van Wert County supported the Parkway levy 263-160 although the levy failed by about 30 votes among Mendon and Union Township voters.
    Overall, the Parkway issue passed 1,794 to 787.
    "I have to thank a wonderful community levy committee," Superintendent Doug Karst said. "They didn't concentrate on one area, and I think a lot of people realized what a great opportunity this was."
    Parkway school board member Don Bourelle also praised the citizens committee.
    "They've been awesome," Bourelle said. "This is very exciting; a big step for the district. It shows the people are behind our kids and ready to go for the future."
    Parkway voters approved an 8.8-mill property tax levy that will be used to pay down the $11.75 million for the local share of the  building project. The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) is contributing $24 million to the project.
   The district plans to build a single-story, 234,000-square-foot building south of the existing Rockford campus on 45 acres of land the district already has purchased. The OSFC master plan for Parkway calls for demolition of the three existing buildings in Willshire, Mendon and Rockford, but school officials are expected to work with the individual communities on possible transfers of ownership if the towns want the aging structures.
    Coldwater's 6.1-mill levy passed by a 1,388-1,269 margin in Tuesday's unofficial count. District officials said they were happy the issue passed but hope that those against it eventually come on board with the project. The district plans to expand and renovate the existing facilities, adding 47,000-square-feet of new classroom space and essentially putting all buildings under one roof.
    "It was a close election, but we hope that some of the people who didn't support it come forward and realize the opportunities this will provide," Coldwater school board President Jerry Meyer said.
    The Coldwater levy will raise the $9.5 million local share of a $30.5 million project. The OSFC is covering the balance of the project.
    "The community did a great job of supporting us," Superintendent Eric Hoffman said. "What we need to do now is go out and talk to people and find out what their concerns were for those who voted against it."
    Hoffman said he heard a number of rumors in recent days about how the project would actually proceed. Some of the stories were "bizarre" he said, and all of them were untrue.
    "It's the same plan we've always had," Hoffman said.
    Coldwater will host a public reception at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school commons area.
    Both the Parkway and Coldwater levies include a 0.5-mill allocation for maintenance of the new facilities. Parkway's new building is tentatively slated to open in the fall of 2006. Coldwater's project will be done in phases and the completion date remains uncertain.


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