School board inching closer to putting price tag on bond issue

Crested Butte Community School plan waits until town takes action

With weeks to go before it must finalize its request to voters for money to renovate Gunnison County schools, the district does not have a final price tag for its bond question. However, the school board agreed on Monday night that it will float the number $60 million to citizens when it begins polling next week.


The school board has been working with a project management firm, the Grand Junction-based Blythe Group and Company, this summer on renovation plans for each of the district’s schools, including the Crested Butte Community School and the Gunnison High School.
On Monday night, July 14, the school board held a work session to make final decisions for site plans.
Since the project has gone through multiple variations, its final cost estimate will not be available until at least August 25, said Roy Blythe, owner of the Blythe Group.
During the work session, the school board discussed results of a survey, conducted by the Blythe Group in June, showing that 65 percent of people would support the bond but 80 percent of respondents who added a comment were concerned about an increase to their taxes and construction costs.
Even with those voters’ concerns, school board president MJ Vosburg says the district is ahead of the game compared to last year, when the district decided to delay appealing to voters until 2008.
“When it came time for the 2007 election, it became clear that we hadn’t done enough of this work, like the meetings with the architectural firm and all of the work to define a direction for each site. [Bahr, Vermeer and Haecker] had done a lot of the work we deal with each day, but it wasn’t targeted enough to push forward with a bond at that time,” says Vosburg. “Even though we’ve been working on it since then it’s still a lot of ground to cover.
While an actual price tag for the bond issue has not been determined, the board agreed that the figure to be cited in a phone survey, which will start this week or next, is $60 million. That bond will have a 20- to 25-year payoff and would cost Gunnison County taxpayers about $4 a month per $100,000 of their home’s value for the duration of the bond.
“We’re much better prepared this year than we were last year,” says Vosburg. “And this year we don’t have a choice—we need this bond. When you’re plopping modular buildings outside of schools, taking classes in rooms that were never meant for classrooms, you need to make improvements. If voters reject the bond, then we’ll do it again next year.”
For this year’s bond attempt, the district hired the Blythe Group to replace Bahr, Vermeer and Haecker, the original architecture firm, to consult on the district’s capital needs, and also enlisted the help of the George K Baum and Company, an investment firm that specializes in getting bond questions passed for districts wishing to make capital improvements.
“This year, the whole process has gone a lot smoother. We’ve had our share of difficulties, but we’re through most of those and, at times, we’ve had a lot of feedback from the community about what they want, which also helps,” says Vosburg.
On Monday night, the district board made its final decisions on site plans for the schools, with the exception of the Crested Butte Community School and Marble Charter School campuses.
The school board first tackled the question of the Gunnison Valley School, which had been depicted on site plans as being attached the Gunnison High School, spurring community protest.
Superintendent Jon Nelson recommended that the Valley School be a separate site “in close proximity to the high school.” The board then unanimously approved the recommendation. Several members reiterated the desire for proximity between the two buildings, citing the need to share certain facilities and give the students at the Valley School the opportunity to participate in band, drama or other extracurricular activities.
Two local contractors, both of whom have had children attend the Valley School, had gone so far as to offer to donate their services and obtain materials at cost for the district to ensure that the building be a separate site. That option, which has a finished cost estimated at $1.5 million, is being explored by the board.
The school board also considered whether to move forward with plans to keep the Crested Butte Community School on school-owned property or attempt to expand onto neighboring lands owned by the town. The latter would require approval by the Crested Butte Town Council, members of which toured the site on Monday, June 14.
The Town Council has not yet made a decision on the matter, so the board decided to delay its own decision.
The school board also unanimously agreed with the superintendent’s recommendation that the vocational program be moved to the Gunnison High School from an external building on the same site. The building vacated by the program would then be used to house the bus barn, which is running out of space at its current location and fails to meet state standards.
The move leaves the existing bus barn with no use and Nelson suggested that the district explore the option of selling that parcel of land and the building. But board members Bill Powell and Jim Perkins expressed reservations about selling the land, arguing that it would be wise to hold it until later.
Before the meeting there was also some uncertainty about whether the Gunnison Community School should be renovated to accommodate the kindergarten in Gunnison. A second option would move the kindergarten to the Lake School, where the preschool and district administration offices currently are.
The board again voted unanimously for the latter, choosing to add classrooms to the Lake School and create an “early childhood center.” Nelson said the change would allow the kindergarten-aged students another critical year to mature before entering the elementary school.
The final recommendation Nelson made that required action at Monday’s meeting dealt with the reconfiguration of the district’s kitchens at the Gunnison schools. The Blythe Group had specified a fully renovated kitchen for the Gunnison Community School, a full preparatory kitchen in the high school, and a warming kitchen at the Lake School.
Instead Nelson recommended, and the board agreed, that the Gunnison Community School should be remodeled with a state-of-the-art kitchen facility that would provide food for the Lake School and the high school. The high school would also have a grill and serve “concession”-type food in an area at the west end of the building where a commons area will already exist.
Nelson said the move will save the district the $500 to $600 per square-foot cost of building a fully functional kitchen and would eliminate the costs of additional kitchen staff.
“We could easily expand that area so that we could serve lunches from there,” said Nelson, “and also incorporate a grill, cold storage and dry storage to serve concessions at events. The commons area on that end could serve as a lunch room, a place for students to gather before and after classes, as well as a space for people to gather during events, without changing the culture of the high school.”
With the decisions finalized by the board, the Blythe Group will be able to more accurately calculate the cost estimates for the project. However, there are still two major issues left with Marble and CBCS. Those issues will be discussed on Monday, July 28 at 4 p.m. at the Lake School in Gunnison. In addition Nelson will be traveling to Marble, along with board members Anne Hauser and Bill Powell, to discuss the school’s needs.

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