BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison School District continues to set their gaze upon a new elementary school in the near future.
At Monday’s meeting of the district’s school board, Superintendent Erin Slater questioned the board on their feelings of moving forward again with placing a bond issue on the ballot.
According to state election laws, the district could put the question on the ballot again as soon as February, but April, June and September were also options.
Board members were not in favor of the February date as it wouldn’t be enough time to address the concerns of those that voted against the issue earlier this month, when the bond failed with only 49% of the vote. Sixty percent +1 voter was needed to pass the bond, which would have provided $27 million in funds to build the new PreK-3 building.
Ken Hagen, of DLR the architecture firm handling the project, was present at the meeting to answer questions. The board, in a separate discussion did vote to approve a standard agreement between DLR and the district for the next bonding work.
“We had a conference call earlier and talking with DLR, and having some reflections with Tim, we tried to talk about two things; time frame and focus. Do we want to focus on the original bond question or focus on what we’re hearing in our feedback for constituents,” Slater said.
Some of these questions are coming up again to expand voter base by adding something additional like fine arts, or some other theater space. And would that create a second bond question.
“As far as a time frame, Feb, April, June, September those are the next opportunities,” Slater said. “I was told that there was a strong possibility the (Lee County) Health Dept. could put a bond issue on the ballot in May. That makes it a bit tricky for us because last time we were very close to the courthouse issue. And April would put us close to that bond issue and possibly even June.
“We don’t want to lose that momentum that we’ve already created with the Kids Committee and social media and we could start that back up in January.”
Several members thought September presented concerns.
“My only concern about September is that that’s when everyone gets their tax statements and they’re gonna be angry with that.” board member Tim Wondra said.
Lamb said you also run into the same problem with April as far as taxes and said September gives the board more time to address other issues.
“Maybe they want to see a busing plan, maybe even a trial busing plan. And then address some of the concerns of it being in flood plain and show them that (the property) is no longer in a flood plain,” Board President Timm Lamb said. “September allows us to answer those questions.”
Board member Dianne Hope said she was more inclined to move quicker with the issue.
“I’m concerned about September because we’ve lost everyone for June, July and August and now it’s September and you’ve got Labor Day and Rodeo and I just hate to lose what momentum we have going.”
Slater said September gives her and volunteers on the referendum’s ‘Kids Committee” time to seek out and address specific voter issues on why they didn’t support the new building.
“This will give me time to get out to people who have concerns and talk to them and try to answer the questions they have. I could go out and find those groups, with the Kid’s Committee and ask, ‘What would it take for you to vote in favor of this,” Slater said.
She said some of the things people had concerns over included having an auditorium included in the plans, athletic fields and busing issues. But she said there are still a lot of comments coming in on social media, including on Monday, that can help the district prepare better for a second run at the referendum.
Lamb said he didn’t feel the voters rejected the school, but more of the planning and the issues around the building that need to be addressed this time around.