News

Board may kick stadium back to voters

"The Oak Harbor school board is considering whether to include a sports facility bond issue on the November ballot, as well as determining the timing of a bond election for the high school's remodeling.District superintendent Rick Schulte presented three options for the scheduling of elections for the two bond issues at Monday night's school board meeting.The first option proposes to schedule a November 2001 election for the same $7.9 million bond issue included in the March 13 special election. At that time, 56 percent of voters voted yes for the stadium bond, falling short of the required 60 percent supermajority. Also included in this proposed option is a special election for a $25 million bond election in February 2005 or 2006 to complete a 30-year remodel of the high school. The school would not then be reopened until September 2009.The second option proposes a special election in February 2003 to cover both the new sports facility and the remodel of the high school. That would slate the opening of the two facilities for September 2007.The third option Schulte proposed to the board would be the scheduling of a special election to cover both issues in either 2005 or 2006.There are advantages and disadvantages to all three proposals, Schulte said. I thought the school board should look at all three. For instance, the passage of the $25 million remodeling bond issue in 2005 would take advantage of the reduction in bond rates of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2006, but at that time the old North Whidbey Middle School site would not be available as a temporary facility.Any one of the three options is feasible, Schulte said.However, the need for a new sports facility is getting urgent, said Schulte. The stadium facility was due for replacement in 1974, and the track at the high school is old and stiff, not providing schock absorption, which results in more injuries to runners. The district is not yet prepared with details and expert opinions about what a high school remodel will entail. After June 28 of this year the district can use free money from the state for a study and survey of the project by architects and engineers.Meanwhile, putting the stadium bond issue on the November ballot seems feasible for several reasons, Schulte said. The first is that two school board positions are up for election this November, and since the district already has items for the ballot, election costs associated with the bond issue would be lesser.Secondly, the 56-percent yes vote on March 13 was a good showing, said Schulte.We are mandated to respond by trying again, he said.Schulte also said now may be the time to seek approval for the construction of a new sports facility, with the interest rates being at their best in years.It is Schulte's opinion that at least some of the board members agree with the assessment that the sports facility bond issue should be on the ballot this November.What I heard (Monday) night was a strong leaning toward having a sports facility election in November and a school remodel election in February or March 2003, Schulte said.Board Member Susan Waller said while she needs a bit of time to consider all the information presented at the board meeting, she thinks that now is the time to pursue the sports facility bond issue.The sports facilities are dilapidated, Waller said. Of the track at the high school Waller said students risk injuries just by running on it and that other schools won't come to Oak Harbor High School to compete for fear of their students getting injured.The problem is when you do (a project like) this there is no perfect time, Waller said. But, she said, she believes that the needs of the students can't continue to be put off.The board is taking the proposals under advisement and will vote on which course of action to take.We're going to decide that at the next meeting, Waller said.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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