Decision time: $24.9 million bond measure goes to voters

October 2014 Posted in News, School

By Kristine Thomas

Eugene Field School tour
Friday, Oct. 3, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The pubic is invited to see
the school and get information
about the bond.

By nature, Jessica Veith and Chris Mitchell are not worriers. She is a nurse at Salem Hospital’s ICU and he works for Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office as the building maintenance coordinator.

Yet when they drop their children off at Eugene Field Elementary School each morning, they hope and pray everything will be OK. They have concerns about the building during an earthquake, a fire or a flood.

Both Mitchell and Veith have volunteered at Eugene Field and can quickly list the problems with the building including fuses blowing, windows left open throughout the year for needed air circulation, rooms being either too hot or two cold, problems with the bathrooms and water pressure and the school’s location between two highways.

Veith was a student nurse intern for three months at Eugene Field and saw first hand the many problems with the school.

“I don’t think people realize how hard teachers work at Eugene Field to keep their classrooms running smoothly,” she said. “If Eugene Field were a restaurant, people would be in an uproar at how horrible the facilities are and want it closed.”

One of Veith’s biggest concerns is how many students and staff members become ill at the school, although no cause has been determined.

“I have worked for 11 years in Salem Hospital’s ICU and have been seldom sick,” she said. “When I worked for three months at Eugene Field, I had a sinus infection the entire time.”

Veith and Mitchell are two of many community members who are planning to vote yes to pass a $24.9 million school bond measure. If approved, Eugene Field School would close. Robert Frost would house kindergarten through third grade; Mark Twain would be for fourth and fifth grade  and a new school would be build on the Schlador Street campus be for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Both Veith and Mitchell have attended many school board meetings during the last year and half to learn as much as they could about the facilities in the Silver Falls School District.

And, they both said in separate interviews, they hope community members study the facts before voting.

“It’s so important people take the time to visit Eugene Field,” Veith said. “On the outside it looks all cute and quaint. Once you step inside, you can see and smell the problems.”

Veith understands other schools in the district also need facility upgrades. She would vote to support those schools just as she hopes parents will vote yes to support the town schools.

“This bond is about getting our kids out of Eugene Field. We all know the building is failing and it’s time to do something about it,” she said.

Doug Tedrow, Mike Halbirt and Gene Pfeifer all oppose the school bond measure. They think it will cost taxpayers too much.

Tedrow said the bond measures “uses creative financing to make the bitter pill of property tax bills seem easier to swallow.” To make the bond affordable, Tedrow said the measure calls for paying back only interest for the new bond in the earlier years, while using the majority of tax revenue to pay back the existing bond for the second phase of the high school.

In later years when the high school bonds are paid off, all of the tax revenue is applied toward the new bond, he said.

“If your monthly payment is lower, your loan appears more affordable, but you actually pay more out of pocket by incurring much higher interest cost over the term of your mortgage,” Tedrow said.

Halbirt said in the debate whether to approve the school bond, two things are abundantly clear.

“Both sides want the best for our kids and both sides think something needs to be done with Eugene Field Elementary School,” he said.

One side wants to repair the 93 year old facility. The other side wants to abandon it and build a new school.

“People have stated that the plumbing is bad. At my house, if the plumbing is bad, I fix the pipes,” Halbirt said. “Tear it down – what are you crazy? Soon I will need a new roof on my house – they don’t last forever. I don’t have any intentions of bulldozing it for that – I will repair it and maybe provide work for local craftsmen in the process. Houses and schools last a long time if you properly maintain them.”

Both Halbirt and Tedrow said Pfeifer has gone to the school board with an alternative proposal to repair Eugene Field that would cost less.  Board members questioned it.

Pfeifer said the board members have “not been acting conservatively as they generally exhibit in their own personal affairs.” Pfeifer argues he has a letter dated March 31 from Dalke Construction concluding Eugene Field could be remediated to a safe and energy efficient facility for less than $5 million. Pfeifer said the historic Schlador Street campus can be remediated for less than $10 million.

“Why select a $24.9 million bond when all the immediate needs for SFSD urban and rural safety, health, and scholastic facility functions can be achieved for less than $10 million,” Pfeifer wrote.  “What Silverton students do want and need are safe and healthy learning space, energy efficiency, longevity, sustainability and funding for excellent scholastic achievement; not new buildings.”

At an April work session, board member Wally Lierman disputed Pfeifer’s estimates on the cost to remediate Eugene Field.

In an email to Jim Schiess of Dalke Construction, Lierman pointed out, “A greater concern is that with the project work that you are assuming will be done, significant scope is missing and inaccurate assumptions are being made.”

Items of note that Lierman questioned included those listed as  “provided by the district”,  the fact that re-plumbing of the building was not included in the Dalke document, and the assumption that workers will be able access the crawl space of the structure. He also noted there will be an unknown number of changes “that will be required by the city, county and ODOT when we do a project of this significance.”

In a letter to voters, Superintendent Andy Bellando said property owners in Silverton are expected to pay $2.36 per $1,000 of assessed property value on existing bond issues that funded the completion of Silverton High School. If the new bond measure passes in November, the combined rate for both new and existing bonds is estimated to be $3 or less per $1,000 of assessed property value over the life of the bonds. He invites voters to an Open House at Eugene Field Friday, Oct. 3, 6 to 7:30 p.m.  to tour the school and get information.

For Mitchell, the bond measure is simple.

“My belief is the community put getting students out of Eugene Field as the first priority. We can’t fix all the problems right away. It determined the highest need first and that is Eugene Field,” Mitchell said. “If the community had instead said we need to focus on another school, I would support that because it’s what is best for our kids.”

Silver Falls School District bond measure details

Voters in the Silver Falls School District are being asked to approve a $24.9 million bond measure in the Nov. 4 election.

If approved, it is estimated district property owners will pay a combined rate of $3 or less per $1,000 of assessed property value over the 17-year life of the bond.

The school board designed the bond to achieve its goal of moving students out of Eugene Field, which it voted to close the school but has not set a date.

Bond approval would fund:

Security and technology upgrades for all district elementary schools.

Additional classrooms and a cafeteria at Robert Frost School to serve kindergarten – third grade students and a covered play area at Mark Twain to serve students in grades four and five.

The removal of the original multi-story Schlador Street building that was decommissioned for school use. Construction of additional classrooms and reconstruction of a single-story portion of the Schlador Street campus to serve students in sixth through eighth grade. Schlador would continue to house Community Roots Charter School.

Information from the Silver Falls School District 

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