Committee preparing to present proposal to school board
Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2015
The question concerning how the leadership of Dowagiac Union Schools plans to renovate its high school, elementary and athletic facilities has shifted from “will there be a bond proposal?” to “how much will it cost voters?”
The district’s ad-hoc building committee decided to move forward with plans to present two bond proposals for approval by the Board of Education during their meeting Tuesday evening at Dowagiac Union High School. While the committee is finalizing the exact millage increase figures on each proposal, the bonds are intended to raise over $35 million to go toward improvements to the security, cooling, and ADA-compliance of the district’s older buildings.
Tuesday’s meeting comes on the heels of the public hearing the district held last week, where it released the results of the building survey issued to district voters last month.
The lion’s share of the planned renovations will go toward the high school building, including the installation of a new HVAC system, secure entry vestibule, and a sundry of improvements to the building’s windows, carpeting and other masonry repairs.
“The high school needs to be done, fully,” said Superintendent Paul Hartsig. “That’s what the community expects. The community made that clear in the survey.”
The district is also seeking funding to perform similar improvements to their four elementary buildings in the district, as well as for accessibility improvements to Chris Taylor Alumni Field.
“The bleachers need to be redone for ADA and safety compliance,” Hartsig said. “Right now they are really in need of an upgrade. It’s something that needs to be done, sooner rather than later.”
The committee considered two options during their meeting Tuesday — to go for a single $27 million bond that would pay for complete renovations to the high school but only partial work for the elementary schools and football field, or add a second, smaller proposal, providing nearly $10 million worth of additional funding that would not only fulfill all their ambitions for the other facilities, but would also fund the construction of a new, 1,500-seat competition gym at the high school.
Some attending the meeting suggested going with a smaller proposal first and attempt to get additional funding later; others, though, proposed going for the total sum for this coming election, looking at the success that the Niles Community School District had with its campaign to pass two bond proposals earlier this month.
“You have to try to get what you think you can get on the first one,” Crandall said. “You play to win. You organize, you plan, you develop that energy and get people into that. The second time around, it’s more difficult to get them involved.”
Members of the committee will finalize the language of the proposals in the coming weeks for presentation to the Board of Education. If approved, the district will submit the proposals to the state treasury in Lansing; if approved then, they will be up for vote during the November election.