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Riverdale school voters asked to ante up

$21.5 million in general obligation bonds for Riverdale Elementary School ?

Riverdale School District officials would like to renovate their grade school campus, and they're asking voters for approval of $21.5 million general obligation bonds Tuesday, Nov. 4. The bonds are estimated at about $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value and would mature in 30 years.

District Superintendent Terry Hoaglund said in a letter that now is a good time to build despite the wavering economy.

'After speaking to industry experts, I understand it is a good time to get highly competitive pricing due to current economic conditions,' he said. Waiting may mean paying an estimated six to seven percent more each delayed year as construction costs escalate.

Additionally, 'an enhanced campus aesthetic most likely would confer a benefit to our community's property values,' he said.

The current grade school's main building is 90 years old, and the other seven surrounding buildings are between 40 and 50 years old. In the renovation, four of the seven would be replaced with a new two-story structure.

The district has gotten 'bubble drawings' from Mahlum Architects and officials believe the best option at this point is replacement, said school board Chair Chris Hall.

In recent years, money that could be used in the classroom has instead been diverted to maintenance issues around the campus.

'Despite ongoing maintenance efforts, the heating, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems are failing,' said Hoaglund. 'Roof leaks are chronic because of design flaws from many piecemeal additions; and the corroded pipes leach contaminants into drinking water.'

Initially, the district explored the option of protecting the façade of the main building, but at an extra cost of $1 million, full replacement seemed like a better use of taxpayers' money.

'The architect's design will incorporate historical elements, maximize existing space while recognizing economies of scale, and improve landscaping in keeping with the neighborhood,' said Hoaglund. Additionally, 'the community will have opportunities to help shape the design of the project over the next several months.'

The renovation would bring buildings up to code, provide facilities more conducive to technology, upgrade to more energy-efficient systems, and even refinance $1.5 million in outstanding debt.

The school board would break ground on June 15, 2009, if the bond passes and finish before fall 2010.

'As one of our esteemed neighbors put it, it's never a great time to do long-term planning,' said Hall. 'Hopefully, we'll be celebrating with champagne glasses.'

Currently the district plans to lease Smith Elementary School, 8935 S.W. 52nd Ave. in Portland from Portland Public Schools during the 2009-2010 school year. Smith was closed in 2005.