Re-2 wish list pared down to $86 million | PostIndependent.com
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Re-2 wish list pared down to $86 million

Amanda Holt MillerPost Independent Staff

RIFLE – The group making recommendations to the Garfield School District Re-2 board for a bond issue on the November 2006 ballot, slashed its list of must-do projects for the last time on Wednesday night.It will present a new, almost $86 million wish list to the school board on March 21.The facilities needs committee is made up of about 50 community members, parents and teachers from Rifle, Silt and New Castle. The group started with a wish list totaling more than $233 million and painstakingly cut that down to $131 million at its Jan. 11 meeting.The district’s bonding capacity is $123 million. Leaders of the committee sent out 50 surveys to committee members to see how much money they felt comfortable asking voters to give.Thirty-five surveys came back. Of those 35 respondents, nine said the district should ask for $80 million, five said $70 million and three people voted for either $60 million or $90 million. The group then set its sights on cutting requests down to between $70 million and $80 million.”This was very difficult,” said Theresa Hamilton, Re-2 director of district-wide affairs. “These people did a lot of hard work. It was $233 million and then $131 million. Everybody has their own ideas.””Why can’t we ask for all of it?” said Sanja Morgan, Re-2 transportation director. “If we don’t, we’ll have to come back in a couple years. I think voters grow weary of that. I say we go for what we need. Let’s not be afraid.”Superintendent Gary Pack warned committee members that voters might not be willing to support the district if it asks for too much and let them know that the bond issue would probably have to be accompanied by a mill levy request.Bonds pay for bricks and mortar, but not staff or wages.”If we build a whole new elementary school in Rifle – there is no staff at a new school,” Pack said.While the committee came up with a figure just under $86 million, Pack warned committee members that their word isn’t final. The school board will ultimately decide how much to ask for on the November ballot, if it asks for anything.”We can justify the whole $230 million, but the reality is we have to be able to market this to the community,” Pack said. “I would be less than candid with you if I didn’t tell you it’ll probably be less than that $86 million figure.”Getting the list downParing the list down was not easy feat, but the group prioritized the same projects in its meeting as it had in the surveys committee leaders sent to them at home.The final list includes a new elementary school in Silt to replace Roy Moore and a new Elementary school in Rifle. The committee also approved plans to build a new middle school on the land Re-2 owns next to Kathryn Senor Elementary School and remodel Riverside Middle School to make it into and elementary. Repairs and upgrades at Wamsley Elementary School were also a top priority.The biggest project the group voted for was a new high school in Rifle, with a vocational center. The group voted to build a new school over remodeling the old one in order to avoid the logistical nightmare of renovating the building while students occupy it.”It can be done, but it would be incredibly difficult,” said Gary Prager, an architect who works with the district and mediates the facilities needs meetings. “You’d lose the kitchen, the commons and the auditorium for two years.”Committee members talked about the difficulties posed by creating an off-site kitchen and the disruption to instruction that would come with an extensive $14 million remodel while school’s in session.The core of Rifle High School is only built to support 600 students, Prager said. The rest of the school can handle almost 1,000.The group voted to build a new school and plan to renovate the old one as a middle school with a future bond project.That was going to be the end.”Wait,” said Allison Keursten, a community member. “If you’re looking at remodeling that high school five years down the road, there won’t be any room in the middle school. They’re already almost at capacity.”The group agreed to add four classrooms to Rifle Middle School.Those are the recommendations the group will present to the school board March 21.Pack left committee members with some encouragement that there will be future projects in which the district can address some of the needs that will have to be left out for now.”We live in a growing community,” Pack said. “And we’ll be impacted by student growth issues for probably at least another decade. One good thing about that growth is that it’s accompanies by product growth. And that product is natural gas, which pushes the assessed valuation up and reduces property taxes.”Contact Amanda Holt Miller: 945-8515 ext. 529ahmiller@postindependent.com


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