Ballots in mail, bond pitch made

Oak Harbor School District Construction Manager Gary Goltz, left, and Superintendent Rick Schulte explain the proposed high school remodel using a conceptual design by architect Carlos Sierra-Martin. - Marcie Miller
Oak Harbor School District Construction Manager Gary Goltz, left, and Superintendent Rick Schulte explain the proposed high school remodel using a conceptual design by architect Carlos Sierra-Martin.
— image credit: Marcie Miller

One day after absentee ballots were mailed out for the May 20 school bond election, Oak Harbor School District administrators heard something new from the public at a forum on the high school remodel bond last week.

After listening to Schools Superintendent Rick Schulte and Construction Manager Gary Goltz explain the high school remodel project, Robert Harrison, a retired California construction supervisor now living in Oak Harbor, questioned their figures.

“It’s almost an impossible task to do what you want to do with $57 million,” he said.

After months of people saying the district was asking for too much money, for too ambitious a project, Harrison was saying they weren’t asking for enough money. At least not for a project of this scope.

“Change orders and delays will be at least one third that,” Harrison predicted.

Goltz responded that the estimate includes a built-in 8 percent contingency to cover the cost of change orders. He noted that with the six school remodels completed by the district, all changes have come in under this 8 percent level. A change order is any change in the plan that requires extra time or materials, such as adding electrical outlets or modifying the design.

Harrison also suggested the district drop the “wish list” and go with a more basic design.

“You don’t need a ‘Performing Arts Center’ in a high school,” he said.

Citizens for Better Schools organizer Lynn Goebel said they may have made a mistake in calling it a performing arts center, rather than just “auditorium,” which is a more standard feature for schools. The facility would be used by both school and community groups.

Board says project meets needs

Board vice-president Kathy Jones defended the board’s decision on the scope of the project, which includes athletic facilities that would replace Memorial Stadium.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What do our kids need to be successful?’”

She noted the needs of students have changed in the 30 years since the high school was built.

“We provide incredibly strong vocational and technical programs,” she said.

The definition of “vo-tech” has also changed over the years, from home economics for girls and shop for boys to computer programming and culinary arts.

“We’re not building a Cadillac,” Jones said. “We’re building what we believe the kids of Oak Harbor need.”

Goltz invited Harrison to serve on the bond oversight committee, which would be formed after the bond passes.

Absentee voters seen as key to election win

While just three members of the public turned out for the final school bond forum, around 8,000 absentee ballots were mailed out last Monday to Oak Harbor School district voters.

Island County auditor Suzanne Sinclair said a similar number were mailed out for the bond’s last vote March 11. Of those ballots, 4,565 were returned. There were 2,269 marked “yes,” and 2,261 marked “no.” The rest were rendered invalid for a variety of reasons.

Under state election rules, school elections must receive a 60 percent “supermajority” of the votes cast in order to pass.

The final count of all the March 11 votes was 53.8 percent yes votes, or 3,759, to 46.2 percent, and 3,228. To have met the 60 percent mark, the vote would have needed to move 433 no votes to yes.

Citizens for Better Schools had hoped for a cushion of 6,000 yes votes. Their main strategy was to call voters who had already pledged to vote yes.

Sinclair said the cost of the last election to the school district was $28,347. With the school bond once again being the only item on the ballot May 20, she expects the cost will be similar.

The school district has made no changes to the proposal, as board members feel confident it is the best plan for the money.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at or call 675-6611

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