School bond priorities debated

A meeting to discuss the schedule of upcoming school bond measures turned into a debate on which project should be a priority.

The Thursday evening meeting, the first for the newly appointed Capital Facilities Planning Committee for the Oak Harbor School District, turned into a debate over which measure should run first — a bond to fund a new athletic facility that would be built at Oak Harbor High School, or a bond to fund a high school renovation.

School Board President Kathy Jones said she’s been hearing from people that a bond for the athletic facility shouldn’t be presented to voters before a high school renovation.

Oak Harbor resident Mike Lightbourne pointed out a Market Trends survey showed that 63 percent of the residents believe a high school renovation should come before the stadium.

However, Lyle Bull, co-chair of the Rotary Stadium Fund-raising Committee, said he thought the date of the stadium bond had already been decided and any talk of changing the date of the bond election would hurt chances of approval.

“One of the biggest detriments we have is we look like we’re flip-flopping,” Bull said. The committee wants the school district to run a November bond election for a new athletic facility.

Currently, approximately 3,000 donors have contributed $375,000 to help the school district offset costs for a new athletic facility. That facility would include a stadium, track and field, baseball diamonds and practice fields. The wood bleachers at aging Memorial Stadium were demolished and the field isn’t suitable for post-season competition.

Co-chair Jim Slowik said that the committee used a November bond election date as a selling point for donors.

He said a stadium measure would be a lot easier to pass than the more expensive high school renovation. He said that there is money and community support behind the athletic facility.

Early figures put the budget for athletic facilities between $4 million and $6 million and a renovation bond at $56 million. However, those numbers are more than a year old and need updating to account for high construction inflation that has affected other public projects in the area.

Approximately 25 people attended the Thursday evening meeting. The group was comprised of teachers, administrators, residents and Rotary members.

After both sides talked about which measure to run first, the consensus was to heed Rotary’s recommendation and stay with a November bond election for the athletic facilities.

School officials hope the differences people have won’t hurt the chances of success for both upcoming measures. Both have failed at the polls in the past.

“I don’t want a civil war among our supporters on how to be successful,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said.

The agenda for the first Capital Facilities Planning Committee included discussing dates for both bonds and how rising construction costs will impact upcoming projects.

However, since the discussion of the athletic facility bond took up most of the two-hour meeting, Schulte recommended discussing the remaining topic at a later meeting.

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