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2018-06-13 / Front Page

TAS Board Hosts Post-Bond Public Discourse

The Tahquamenon Area Schools Board held a special meeting last Tuesday, June 5 to discuss the various factors concerning the recent bond proposal failure and to possibly entertain a notion to hold another bond election at this year’s November election or the next one in May 2019.

TAS superintendent Stacy Price pointed out that the window for a November election was rapidly closing. She would have until the end of June to get all the legalities settled.

Last May’s election was the second time that a bond proposal to renovate the school failed. The previous bond proposal election presented by former superintendent Dr. Dave Barry for the November 3, 2015 election was actually two separate proposals.

Prop 1 for $18,075,000 included tearing down the old Middle School and industrial wing, but leaving the majority of the high school as is. It also would have paid for a new elementary school.

Prop 2 dealt with renovating the athletic field for $2,265,000.

Both proposals failed: Prop 1, 1,245 to 297, and Prop 2, 1,235 to 367.

Although at the time there was no specific meeting to determine why the earlier Prop 1 and 2 failed, this time slightly over twodozen members of the public and TAS staff attended the June 5 two-and-a-half hour meeting to discuss why the latest proposal failed.

Most of those at the meeting were supporters of the recent bond.

According to trustees Michelle Zellar and Brian Rahilly, one of the reasons the bond failed was the portion concerning renovating the athletic field. Both had heard from voters that was the reason for their no vote and that the athletic portion should be eliminated in the next bond proposal.

There was some opposition to the idea of eliminating the athletic portion, with thoughts that football games can bring in a lot of people and that sports is beneficial to the athletes involved. According to the school’s Website, 39 percent of middle and high school students are involved in sports.

The supporters of the athletic portion want the grandstand replaced and the track itself updated, as there are very few schools willing to come to a track meet on a non-rubberized, asphalt track.

Mike Wynn expressed the opinion that part of the reason the bond failed was the absence of details of the cost of the specific items it would have renovated, as well as the cost to the average taxpayer. He got support from others asking for more details.

Eric Buckler came to the meeting representing the naysayers. “We can’t believe collectively what’s happened here in the last year,” he began. “Part of the strategy (of the Integrated Designs, Inc. architects) was to keep going to bond and eventually you’ll wear them out.”

Two years ago at a meeting concerning the 2015 bond proposals, Buckler had presented a petition reportedly signed by 200 people.

As he explained it, “[The petition] asked for consideration that the essential structure be dealt with and there would be thoughts about having a community center utilized with any facility… in that way it would still be available to the public, the students and the school for everything else. I would strongly suggest that this board listen to the majority of the public that spoke absolutely clear in the last election. That last vote is telling you to focus on what is absolutely necessary.”

The demolition of the high school, including the auditorium, was brought up as a reason for the majority no vote. It also was noted that IDI architects were responsible for the proposed changes to the school, and that an independent consultant should look the building over.

Don Price pointed out the fact that the roof of the high school was in terrible shape and offered to conduct a tour after the meeting. An estimated price tag for replacing the entire roof of the complex (including the high school) was $1 million.

Although high school principal Cliff Fossitt proposed eliminating the multipurpose room, the idea did not get a wide response.

Another idea to gather more support for any new bond proposal was for supporters to go out into the communities where it failed to discus why it is necessary to pass a bond to revamp the school building.

In the end the board members at the meeting decided to table the decision about whether to ask for another bond election at the November or May election until another special meeting two days later.

At the June 7 meeting the board continued to discus the various pros and cons of holding another bond proposal at the November election. In the end, member decided to go ahead with placing two bond issues before the voters at that time.

There will be one proposal dealing exclusively fore the voters at that time.

There will be one proposal dealing exclusively with the athletic field—replacing the grandstand and press box and resurfacing the track.

The second bond proposal contains everything else that was in the May proposal—the demolition of the high school, renovation of the elementary classrooms, renovation of the old Middle School into the High School, construction of a new entrance, replacement of the roof (excepting the old high school), upgrades to restrooms, cafeteria, library and kitchen, upgrades to mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, purchase of two buses, installation of security cameras and access control, and the purchase of educational technology.

Should this bond pass, there would be the addition of a multi-purpose room, CTE room and music wing at the high school, renovation to the existing science wing and the purchase of additional new buses.

In order to promote a November bond election, the board members, along with concerned citizens, will conduct town hall meetings at various locations within the TAS District.

In other action the June 18 school board meeting was changed to June 21.

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