'Let's Do It'

More than 100 people packed into the Oak Harbor School District board room Monday night, to plead with the board to put the school bond back on the ballot in May, calling this “the right time and the right plan.”

Their enthusiasm made it easy for the board to say yes, and the bond will go before voters again in another special election May 20.

The cost of the last election has not been compiled by the auditor’s office, but school district finance director Pam Ross said the 2001 maintenance and operations levy, also a stand alone issue, cost $24,000.

Speaker after speaker begged the board to keep the high school remodel plan as is and get it back out for a vote while there was still momentum. Only two speakers opposed the move, veteran opponent Scott Hornung and school bus driver Steve Schulz.

The $45 million bond proposal failed March 11 to get a supermajority of 60 percent, garnering 56.4 percent yes votes. The count is not yet final.

Support wide

and vocal

Lynn Goebel, Citizens for Better Schools organizer, was the first up to the podium.

“I feel passionately this is the right proposal,” she said. “Let’s do it.”

Michael Black read a letter from high school athletic director Jeff Stone, strongly urging the board to resubmit the proposal. Stone felt changes made to decrease costs would repeat the mistakes of 30 years ago, when the present high school was built. Then, the stadium was left at Memorial Field, and corners were cut which the school is paying for now with increased maintenance and inadequate facilities.

Oak Harbor High School students Chris Brown and Hilary Figg made a joint appeal, even though the seniors will be long gone before any remodeling is done.

“Every minute we waste is time students have to go to (the old) Oak Harbor High School,” Brown said.

“This is terribly, terribly important,” Figg said, “The school is rapidly, rapidly deteriorating.” As she has throughout the campaign, Figg listed many of the defects in the school that the remodel would address, from the inadequate athletic facilities to the crowded halls and classrooms.

Board cites need, votes yes

Superintendent Rick Schulte noted that 8 of 11 school bond elections statewide failed March 11, but historically districts keep trying until the bonds pass.

“The needs don’t go away,” he said.

Board member Kathy Jones, an accountant, felt it was most economical to run the proposal as a solid package, with the performing arts center and athletic facility included, but that message might not be understood in the community.

“I don’t know what we could change to get the 60 percent vote,” she said.

Kathy Chalfant, board member and Citizens for Better Schools member, felt the yes votes are out there. She estimated they need to secure another 1,000 votes to put it over the top.

“It will not be easy,” she said, but it is doable.

Long-time board member John Dyer suggested some ground rules for this round, noting that the tone of the last campaign was “distressful,” and it had gotten away from the issues and into personal attacks of school board members.

Dyer noted that not even the opposition disputed the need for a new facility. “This should be done now,” he said.

He also urged the board to not make cuts in the project in an attempt to appease voters who may have thought it was too much money, or too grand a scale.

“The things in the project (such as the performing arts center and athletic facility) are what makes a high school,” he said.

Swept up in his enthusiasm, he ended his words by calling for a motion to put the bond’s Resolution 02-14 to the voters in May.

The motion was quickly seconded by Jones.

Board member Gary Wallin threw in his support, adding he grew up in Oak Harbor schools, and knows the need first hand, and felt this was a good proposal.

“I think this is the best buy for our dollars.”

Schulte ended the discussion by saying there is broad and deep support in the community. “Everybody knows we have to do this again.”

He said former board members have urged him to not make the mistake of splitting up the project, because it will never get done.

Design concerns such as the size and location of the performing arts center could be accommodated, Schulte said, reiterating that the plan at this stage is conceptual. He added that removing the stadium and performing arts center would not reduce the total cost that much.

Of the total $57 million project total (with $12 million from state matching funds) $2 million would be used for the performing arts center, and $6.7 million for the sports facilities. A stand-alone bond that failed in May 2001 called for $7.9 million for the sports facility alone.

The board unanimously approved the May 20 election date.

Hornung buries

his hatchet

Earlier in the presentations Hornung took the podium and began his words by saying he hoped there would be no grudges as a new campaign started.

Although Hornung has been critical of the cost of the project, he said he has gotten feedback that the performing arts center was too small, at 500 seats. He suggested increasing the center and decreasing the size of the stadium. He felt a bigger venue could bring increased revenue with rentals to private groups.

Schulz had more of a problem with the board’s attitude than with the proposal. He took exception to the strong wording of the resolution issue in the board agenda.

“This has to stop,” he said, noting wording such as, “The interests of a minority of property owners are superseding the will of the people.”

“Don’t galvanize the no voters,” he said. “I want to vote yes, but I can’t at this time.”

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