Final counts are in

Riverdale officials can breathe easier now. Multnomah County is finished counting ballots, and their general obligation bond to improve the grade school passed with 55 percent approval.

On election night, only about 400 had been counted in a district with 1,700 registered voters, and by Wednesday at noon, the county had only counted about half the ballots.

The final count was 697 voting yes, and 560 voting no in Multnomah County, while the few on the Clackamas County side 26 voted yes and 20 voted no.

Voters were asked to approve $21.5 million general obligation bonds for the renovation of the grade school.

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

The bonds are estimated at about $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value and would mature in 30 years.

The district has spent the last year in planning mode to find a solution to the aging buildings. In recent years, money that could be used in the classroom has instead been diverted to maintenance issues around the campus.

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

'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 Superintendent Terry Hoagland. 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 refinanced $1.5 million in outstanding debt.

The school board would break ground on June 15, 2009, and finish before Fall 2010.

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

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