Fairfield school board accepts ballot measure petition for FHS remodel
Fairfield Community School District Board of Directors Monday accepted 1,087 signatures petitioning the school board to hold a vote to borrow $10 million in general obligation bonds to fund a proposed renovation and addition project at Fairfield High School.
By law, the school district needed 25 percent of 3,123 voters who participated at the last election of school officials, or a minimum of 781 signatures.
The petition is due in the county auditor’s office by Friday to hold an April 2 vote.
“Thanks to the Messerilis [Ralph and Linda] for organizing people to help gather signatures,” said board president Jennifer Anderson.
“The Lowenbergs, Greg and June, worked as much as we did and thanks really go to the 40 or so people who went out and gathered signatures,” said Ralph Messerili. “And several local businesses also allowed petitions to be signed in their stores.”
The board unanimously approved a resolution Monday for an April 2 election with one ballot measure requiring a yes or no vote to approve the district’s borrowing $10 million for the FHS facilities project. The measure will need 60 percent of the votes cast to approve the measure.
In January, Superintendent Art Sathoff and financial bonding advisor Matt Gillaspie, senior vice president at Piper Jaffray & Company, in Des Moines, outlined a plan to be able to borrow the funds without raising property taxes.
“Because of good stewardship of the budget and steps the district has taken to improve the district’s cash reserve and spending authority, along with the completion of a levy for a past early retirement policy, the district feels it is in an excellent position to decrease the levy rate,” Sathoff told the school board in January. “The district now has the flexibility to offset a 97-cents levy increase [to borrow $10 million] by reducing what is levied in other funds.”
The project is budgeted at $10.2 million, but the school district plans to borrow $10 million to get the best interest rate as advised by Gillaspie. The remaining funds will be contributed by the school district, using sales tax revenue and Physical Plant and Equipment Levy money.
The school board also viewed an update about the project plans.
“We’ve held three meetings with the architect [StruXture Architects], the construction manager [Carl A. Nelson & Company] and administrators and teachers,” said Sathoff. “We’ve had lots of discussion, keeping the budget and priorities set by the school board in mind.
“Planning is proceeding, and we’ll have to factor in the fees, about $1.3 million and another $1 million in contingency funds,” he said.
“I’m impressed how Nelson and StruXture are working together,” said Sathoff.
He said there is not a final plan yet, various parts of plans are settled, but a final version is not ready.
“We’re almost there,” he said. “We’ve discussed entrances and security. The northeast corner of the building will not need to be demolished, but the load-bearing walls can be used according to StruXture.”
“We discussed adding a metal building for possibly a new wrestling room,” Sathoff said. “With the coach there, we discussed whether space or proximity was a priority. Would a wrestling room closer to the lockers, but a smaller space be better, or more space a little farther away from the lockers be better? Space took priority over adjacency.
“We’ll create a gym lobby that can be used as a trophy display area as well as untangling the bottleneck created to get to concessions,” said Sathoff. “Keeping the tunnel to the football field is a priority.”
The current plan will increase food serving space and cafeteria space to accommodate 200 more students per meal session.
“We could move to a closed campus,” said Sathoff.
The plan keeps the board’s and staff priorities to enlarge science rooms, update air quality and improve access for Americans with Disabilities Act needs.
“The plan is to move the art room to the top floor and stack chorus and band rooms under the art room, which will benefit from more natural light,” said Sathoff. “A new elevator is planned for the northwest section of the building, which will access all floor levels. Each floor will get a new restroom.
“The group meets again Tuesday [today] to further discuss this plan. We’re working on the entrance.
We want it to be an obvious main entrance and we want a more secure system for the building. We’ll probably eliminate some stairs to keep the entrance at-grade,” said Sathoff.
“But we want to figure out how to do all this without sinking more money in any one part of the project,” he said.
“We don’t want to create an entrance that will take away money from other updates.”
Board member Jeri Kunkle asked if windows would be bigger, allowing more natural light into the building.
“This plan does not include new windows,” said Sathoff. “Plans and designs have been changing fast, but we are keeping the board’s priorities and working to get what we need with this budget.”
He said a finalized plan will be settled soon, to be able to share with the public before the April 2 vote.