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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pierce City school board revisits construction plan

Friday, May 22, 2009

Members of the Pierce City Board of Education are considering alternative construction plans to the one defeated by voters in April.

At a special meeting this week, Superintendent Russ Moreland told the board the district has carefully saved approximately $925,000 in its building fund. Although the district is still facing replacement of the outdoor track for $125,000 and putting up lights at the North Park ball fields, there is money to build something without going to the voters for more borrowing power.

With that in mind, architect Richard Werner from Werner and Associates, along with Jim Rutledge, who has been in charge of Pierce City school plans, sat down with board members to show two smaller projects.

The smaller project called for extending the building in front of the high school gym by 44 feet. Music and art classrooms would take up most of the new space. The superintendent's current office would be converted to a music office and storage and a new office erected along the east wall.

Remodeling of the lobby outside the gym would slightly reduce its size, Rutledge said, while the superintendent's office would be a bit larger. Cost of the 4,000 square foot addition was estimated at $450,000.

The second project would place the vocational agriculture program, with classrooms, a shop, greenhouse and a livestock yard in one building on the east side of the gym. The vo-ag shop would be comparable in size to the current building, with more usable space, Rutledge said.

Contrary to the original design, the latest plan called for removal of the house on the east side of the gym and moving the ag complex south, lining up the greenhouse facing Adams Avenue with the front of the proposed music and art addition. Rutledge said after repeated reviews, it was decided the house was too chopped up to serve effectively as a pre-school building or as an office for the superintendent. With accessibility issues factored in, it made more sense to remove the house entirely.

A sidewalk, which could be covered, could connect the ag building with the current gym lobby. Cost of the 7,000 square foot addition was estimated at $700,000.

During the April election, the question of whether to build had peripherally refocused into a debate over demolition of the old middle school. The fate of the old building returned this week when the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation named the 1921 school building as one of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state.

Board President Jim Barchak, again insisted the old building was not safe, reframed the current conversation into one over safety. By building in front of the gym, music and art classes could be moved from the lower level of the old building, making enough room to vacate the third floor of the old building, where structural issues are most evident.

Board member Fred Slagle endorsed both proposals, neither of which would affect the future resolution of the middle school question. Slagle said he had liked the master plan concept showing where the district wanted to go. The newest proposals would show progress in that direction.

Moreland told the board the Missouri General Assembly had passed legislation allowing a four-sevenths vote for bond issues, a smaller majority generally available only in April, for elections in August and November of 2009 only. Passage of any bond issue this year would qualify the district for zero-interest bonds under the federal Building America Bond Act, part of the federal stimulus package.

If the district passed the $3.5 million bond issue proposed in April, the interest savings with zero-percent bonds could be as much as $3 million, Moreland said. The federal bonds would have to be repaid in 15 years, however, requiring bigger payments than a typical 20-year bond issue. If Pierce City did not go after some of the bond money, funds would simply go to another district. How much money might be out there for Pierce City could not be estimated, Moreland said.

In discussing why the last bond issue failed, Slagle said he still felt 60 percent of the public would vote no again, largely because of bad economic times. Several patrons present echoed the idea that people had voted no because the tax hike was more than they could handle. No one spoke against going to voters for a smaller proposal, such as one covering the ag buildings.

Board members appeared to favor approving the music and art addition for immediate action. Moreland asked if the addition could be designed and erected by the end of the Christmas break, but Rutledge did not think so.

Moreland said the special meeting had been called to give board members time to consider the ideas so that a vote could be taken at the regular monthly meeting on May 28. No vote had been planned at the special meeting.



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