BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – For the fourth time in almost as many years, Fort Madison School district voters have shot down an attempt to build a new elementary school.
Results from the Tuesday night special election on the issue of building a $30 million Prek-3rd grade elementary building near the current middle school on Bluff Road failed to meet the state-mandated 60% +1 supermajority.
Voters cast 58.13% of the votes in favor of the new construction. It’s the third time in as many years a majority of voters in the district did want the new school built.
Fort Madison School Board President Tim Wondra said he doesn’t see the current school board putting the issue back in front of voters.
“Yeah, I don’t foresee it coming back on the ballot anytime in the near future,” Wondra said Tuesday night.
“We tried to listen to the community. They didn’t want ball fields and we took that off. They wanted more focus on traffic and we addressed that. No matter what we did it didn’t change anything”.
Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater agreed with Wondra’s assessment.
“I would agree with that statement. Like I’ve said, the board made as many changes as possible with the ball fields, traffic, and its impact to the site for access and egress which the community was vocal about,” she said.
“We changed architecture firms, hired a construction manager so we had added expertise. No other adjustments we could have made and the current board doesn’t see any additional changes they could make.”
Votes totaled 3,296 on the issue with 1,916 in favor of the new school and 1,380 voted against it for a 58.13% approval.
The numbers are strikingly similar to the fall election that failed with just over 59% of the vote in favor of the new building. Voter turnout was about 250 heavier than the April 2018 bond election.
“It’s pretty close,” Wondra said. “It’s the same numbers for such an important thing for our kids and community.”
Wondra also put out a statement after the results came in.
” I’m very saddened by the results. I want to thank all the people who worked so hard behind the scenes and those who recognized the need for a new elementary school and continued to vote yes,” he said.
“The district will continue to provide the best educational experience we can for all of our students and our teachers will continue do the best they can with the facility limitations they face every day.”
In Precinct 1, voting at the Fort Madison Public Library, the tally was 638 for and 403 against the measure for 61.3%. In Precinct 2, where voting was done at Grace Bible Church, voters broke 179-140 in favor of the building for a 56.1% approval. Precinct 3 voting was done at the West Point Public Library and 219 voted for the measure while 312 voted against it for just a 41.2% approval.
In the 2018 bond election, Precinct 1 came in at 59.7% approval, while Precinct 2 was 55.7% and Precinct 3 was 35.6% in favor of the new building. Absentee approval was higher in that election at 67.3%.
Absentee ballots this time around came in 880 for and 525 against for a 62.6% approval. The absentee ballots also included the satellite voting locations that were held on consecutive Fridays prior to the election.
“The Fort Madison Community School District is thankful for the work that is done each and every day for students in our district. We are extremely disappointed, however, at the failure of the elementary school bond referendum,” Slater wrote in a prepared statement.
“With less than the required 60% super majority approval, the Fort Madison Community School District finds itself unable to move forward in providing the type of educational facilities required for the demands of today’s teaching and learning standards.”
Also on the ballot were two open school board seats. The seats currently held by Brian Steffensemeier and Joshua Wykert had to be placed on the ballot because they both were appointed to fill vacancies.
Steffensmeier replaced Jillian Troxel when she left the district. Joshua Wykert replaced Gayla Young after she died in January.
Steffensmeier and Brad Menke will take seats on the board with Steffensmeier garnering 2,232 votes and Menke getting 1,720 votes. Wykert was third in the voting with 965 votes.