January 30, 2013WHITEFIELD — Members of the Dan Hebert Inc. (DHI) development team have launched an information campaign to help inform WMR School District voters about two proposed projects that they will face on the March 12 school meeting ballot.
The team has put up a website: www.InvestInOurFuture.me.
The site includes information about the limited window of opportunity in 2013 to secure state Department of Education CTE funds to defray costs, as well as the projected property tax in each town to pay for the District's share.
Voters in Carroll, Dalton, Jefferson, Lancaster, and Whitefield have a chance to vote on March 12 on the District's Article 1 for the CTE addition and Article 2 for WMRHS renovations.
DHI was selected in a competitive process last year to design-build the proposed Career and Technical Education (CTE) addition and renovations at WMRHS. The volunteer Building Committee and school administrators worked with the DHI development team, including Montagne Communications, to ensure that the website provides what District voters need to make an informed decision on March 12.
"We're excited to offer voters a number of different ways to receive information about the proposed CTE program (Article 1) and proposed upgrades at WMRHS (Article 2)," said Building Committee chairman Dave Atkinson of Lancaster. "It's important for voters to understand the critical need for these upgrades, the current opportunity for major state funding, and the facts and figures on what we are proposing. Our Building Committee and the Program Advisory Committees worked hard for more than a year and received a great deal of community input on the CTE addition's programs and design.
"A very conscious effort was made to meet the educational needs of our students, while minimizing costs for local taxpayers."
Atkinson said that he realizes this is a challenging time to ask District taxpayers to support school construction, but with state funds paying for 75 percent of the proposed CTE addition, this is actually a good time to build since construction costs and interest rates are lower than normal.
"If we don't take advantage of this 75 percent CTE funding this year, we will lose the opportunity for these funds," said Atkinson. "This is the right time to make this investment in our children's future."
No CTE facility upgrades have been made in the last 27 years, and the 1984 facility no longer adequately meets the needs of today's students. There are programs where the teaching requirements have changed and classroom and lab spaces are no longer adequate: culinary arts, engineering, business, and animal science.
Renovations to WMRHS are needed to address a number of space constraints, building inefficiencies and safety/code issues. There are six high voltage (12,500) electrical transformers inside the building that should be moved outside. The building needs a sprinkler system for fire suppression and new ceilings.
The high school also has inadequate facilities and space issues. A 2007 study concluded that eight additional classrooms are needed at WMRHS. These classrooms would be available and "re-purposed" once the existing CTE programs are relocated to the new facility.
A new biomass, wood chip heating plant is also planned for the facility, eliminating WMRHS' dependence on oil.
Article 1 asks voters to support a $4,573,862 bond for the construction of the CTE addition. This is 25 percent of the project's guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of $18,073,862. State CTE funds would pay 75 percent of the cost: $13,500,000.
If a bill co-sponsored by local state representatives is passed in Concord to allow School Building Aid for WMRHS — separate from CTE Funding, District taxpayers would pay slightly less than half of the $4.5 million bond.
Article 2 asks voters to support a bond of $4,330,798 for health, safety, and efficiency renovations at WMRHS. These include a new electrical system, a fire suppression sprinkler system, energy efficient windows, and more. Article 2 includes with two key contingencies: the bond would not be issued unless Article 1 for the CTE is also approved; and the District receives School Building Aid to pay for 56 percent of the $4.3 million renovation project.
The http://www.InvestInOurFuture.me website includes a number of topics that are listed at the top of the site's first "page," allowing viewers to click for more information: tax impacts, videos, photos, and rationale, plus a place to submit questions.
Two public information meetings sponsored by the Coös County Farm Bureau are scheduled. The first is at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Jefferson Town Hall.
The second is at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Weeks Memorial Library in Lancaster. Additional public Information meetings will also be held during the first week of March.