by Sally Scott Moore
This summer’s final public meeting to educate the community on the intricacies of the upcoming bond election was held Monday, August 6, in the commons area at Lake City Community School.
A handful of full-time and seasonal residents gathered for another opportunity to hear details of the BEST grant, the upcoming November bond issue and see conceptual plans for the proposed build. Addressing the bonding process were Todd Snidow, a representative of GK Baum, and Brian Calhoun, an architect with RTA based in Colorado Springs.
The project is estimated to cost $13.5 million. In late May, Hinsdale County school district learned they were recipients of both a waiver for a reduced match of $4.1-million, as well as the Build Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant in the amount of $9.4-
million for a combination renovation and new build to the existing school structure.
For this informational encore performance, Snidow explained the 20-year bonding process and the financial implications for homeowners, potential investors and business owners should the $4.1 million bond pass at the ballot box in November this year..
Snidow reprised his view that a bond issuance is often the only option, even with a generous grant to build expensive facilities. He estimated that with the current assessments on a $4.1 million dollar bond, the impact to homeowners would be an approximate extra $29.81 for every $100,000 valuation on their property. Businesses are impacted at a higher rate. As an example, Snidow noted that Mountaineer Theater valued at $168,609 would face an additional tax increase of $202.50 over what its owner already pays.
The Homestead Exemption was offered as a possible cushion for citizens over the age of 65 who have owned their home for 10 years. The Colorado program offers a 50 percent discount on the first $250,000 valuation on their home.
RTA Architect Brian Calhoun recounted the extensive facility assessment conducted over the past several years. In his slide presentation, he acquainted the modest sampling of residents with the conceptual planning made to reach reliable estimates for the BEST Application process last spring.
Considerations for the new facility include safety and security upgrades. Toward that end, plans show relocation of administration offices and school entrance points for better comprehensive overview of the campus, not to mention less congested flow. A monitored and secure entrance with a keyless entry system are all considered must-haves for modern campuses.
According to Calhoun, current Lake City Community School deficits include a lack fire suppression system, inadequate gas shut off switches for science and mechanical rooms; nor does the school currently have a public address system or surveillance systems.
Additional broad-brush, master-planning shows enlarged commons area, a commercial kitchen and ADA upgrades. New plans show Pre-K moving into the school building, along with expansion of the science lab facilities. The current, all-inclusive science lab is a mere 400 square feet. A multi-purpose gym is included in the plans, complete with stage and music room capabilities, along with vocational space, locker rooms and weight rooms.
Calhoun described needed improvements to HVAC and ventilation systems, and the inclusion of dedicated nurse’s station and conference room.
School Board Chairman Phil Virden announced the school board will establish the precise bond amount at their Thursday, August 23, board meeting.
He noted plans will be moving from the conceptual to the specific as soon as school classes begin, with more faculty and community input meetings in the offing. Should the bond pass this November, the bid process would quickly begin for general contractor and subcontracting pieces of the project. With bond passage, construction is expected to begin as soon as school is out for the summer of 2019, with a completion goal before school begins in fall of 2020.
Several questions were posed by seasonal residents Dave and Donna Flynt. Mr. Flynt asked how the square footage both for the build and individual classrooms was determined. Calhoun responded there were various state standards regarding some aspects, such as Colorado High School Activities Assoc. regulation-sized gymnasiums, while other spaces were determined by planned usage and demographic expectations. Comparative viewing of similar sized rural facilities has been undertaken by school board members as well.
Donna Flynt inquired, “How many other schools in Colorado have similar populations with only 80 or 100 students?” While Calhoun didn’t have a specific number for Flynt, he did cite a few examples of even smaller school districts RTA has been involved with in rural Colorado. The architect circled back to the importance of the BEST Program which makes it feasible for small communities such as Lake City to fund state of the art facilities.
To Phil Virden, Mrs. Flynt asked, “You all mentioned a designated nurse’s station, are you planning to hire a nurse?”
Virden explained the school works with the Public Health Nurse when needed, but that currently there is no isolated place for sick students to lie down and wait for parents to pick them up. Public Health Director and School Board member Tara Hardy noted the dearth of secure storage for students.
The Flynts had additional queries regarding contingency funds should the build go over budget. Calhoun voiced long experience in this type of project and noted that the budget planning was inclusive of contingency funds, as well as expected costs for contractor fees and the like required to complete the project.
New Superintendent Rebecca Hall expanded on the needs mentioned for administrative spaces, citing the commercial kitchen as a viable need for the school. “Last year was our first year to have the free and reduced lunch program up and running. Through this program we were able to offer free hot lunches contracted through a local business.” Noting last minute news, she added, “We just found out that the business who provided this service last year won’t be providing it any longer.”
Hall indicated that hot lunches will not be available in or out of the federally subsidized free and reduced program. School Accountant Susan Thompson explained that negotiations and filing for this program happen in February. Late notice on the service ending will result in Lake City Community School dropping from the federal program this school year.
Prior to offering interested guests a tour of the current facilities, Hall summarized the goal for the proposed bond and new facility. “We are trying to meet all our students’ needs, so that our kids can have the same benefits that every other kid in Colorado has.”