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Aging schools = needed repairs

The public is invited to share their ideas in a roundtable discussion with the CCSD School Board and learn about the information prepared by the Facilities Planning Committee

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - A janitor at Ochoco Elementary points out the issues with a portion of floor in the hallway

With aging schools and mounting maintenance issues facing the Crook County School District, voters are soon going to be asked to make some decisions to support their school system.
   Interest rates are at the lowest they have been in a long time, and the district is in the unique position to extend their current bond.
   With this in mind, the community is being asked to bring their ideas to the table in a public forum and discussion on the state of the Crook County School District schools and buildings.
   The meeting will provide an opportunity for the community to learn about the latest information prepared by the Community Facilities Planning Committee in regards to the Facilities Report on the district schools and buildings. The forum will elicit public input in an informal setting, with roundtable discussions with the CCSD school board and facilities committee members.
   A facilities committee was formed towards the beginning of 2012, and their job was to prioritize and come up with recommendations for repairs within the district.
   “The committee has come up and looked at the needed repairs, and asked us to form a subcommittee,” said Crook County Maintenance Director Deen Hylton.
   The subcommittee consisted of Hylton, Gary King, Ed Jenson, John Sundell, and Bob Martin. Their task was to narrow down the repairs to the most urgent projects in the district and to prioritize them.
   Hylton said that the subcommittee cut the projects down considerably. There were three different scenarios, however, that the committee recommended that the public and the district take a look at.
   The first proposal involves going to voters for a bond in November for repairs only, on all current CCSD school structures — including those at Paulina and Powell Butte Community Charter School. This proposal would keep the tax liability at a status quo—and would be equal to current assessment values for the county. This equals a tax liability of approximately $20 to $22 million for taxpayers over 15 years.
   The second scenario consisted of replacing Crooked River Elementary and Ochoco Elementary, and building a new elementary school that would accommodate 600 or more students. The other schools would still be repaired, with a tax threshold for repairs of $15 million and $15 million allocated for the new school.
   “You’re adding $15 million to build a new school,” said Hylton. “You would end up closing two schools — Crooked River and Ochoco, and building a new school.”
   He added that the repairs for this scenario would include Paulina, Powell Butte Charter School, the stadium, the Crook County Middle School, and Crook County High School.
   Hylton said that this would also raise the bond to a 20-year contract, with the tax liability slightly above the first proposal (approximately $.20 more per thousand).
   According to Hylton, the third option was the least favorite recommendation from the facilities committee. It included making all the needed repairs at all the schools, except Crooked River and Ochoco Elementary. In these schools, they would make the least amount of repairs to still keep the schools going, and then in five years, the CCSD would go back to the community for money to build the new elementary school.
   “Interest rates could have gone way up, and things could be lots more expensive in five years’ time. Right now, they are the lowest interest rates that they have been in 20 years.”
   Crook County School District School Board member Rich Mires thinks it is highly critical for anyone who is interested in what is happening in the Crook County School District in the next few years to be at the meeting.
   “I think you have to throw the facts out on the table,” said Mires.
   He noted that there are many issues in the infrastructure of the buildings in the district.
   “The bond rates are the best that they probably will ever be, so it’s a good opportunity to look at it,” he added.
   “I think parents and anyone in the community need to be there, to really listen to the work that was done and the care put into it (from the assessment and facilities committee).”
   School board member Scott Cooper commented that it’s clear that the local schools need a capital investment.
   “Every year of deferred maintenance will increase repair bills in years to come,” said Cooper. “What’s not clear is whether the case for replacement versus repair can be made. This community is still struggling economically. When you’ve got very little, it might make more sense to pay less now, even if you have pay more later. That’s the question voters are going to have to decide. The board is only the trustee for other people’s money. We need to hear from taxpayers and investors about which way they want us to go.”
   Cooper noted that in the May election, words like transparency and public input were thrown around.
   “The board is being responsive to those concerns,” added Cooper. “I hope the public will take the board up on its invitation to get involved in this critical decision.”
   In 2007, the Crook County School District procured a district facilities assessment from Dull Olson and Weeks out of Portland, which at that time came in at an estimate of $30 million for repairs for the district’s aging buildings. In the past year, the district moved ahead with another assessment from BLRB Architects in Bend, and this time the need for repairs came out to approximately $40 million.
   Hylton said that they are also looking at several different sites that could be used to build a new elementary school. An issue that will have to addressed with all of the sites includes power, water, sewer, and roads. The CCSD currently owns one 30-acre piece of land off of Barnes Butte Road, and the other sites are private parcels of land.
   All available sites being considered are within the urban growth boundary.
   The Crook County School District will host the Community Forum and Public Discussion on Monday, July 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Crook County High School in the Eugene Southwell Auditorium. The regular July CCSD Board meeting will be prior to the forum from 5 to 6 p.m.